Watch – and join in with – a Mummers’ Play

My Jaunting got off to a flying – dancing – start in 2019 when I stumbled upon a Twelfth Night mummers’ play outside The Globe.

Mummers’ plays are traditional English folk plays, involving various strange characters in wild costumes. There is usually a hero who gets killed in battle, and then brought back to life by a doctor. It’s probably a forerunner of pantomime, with the same sorts of recurring characters, audience participation and the story told in terrible punning verse.

The Lions Part company perform their Twelfth Night play on the Sunday closest to twelfth night (6th Jan) every year – 2020 is their 25th year – on the Southbank, starting outside The Globe and ending with a dance through the streets – which all the audience is encouraged to join in with – to The George Inn, Southwark for storytelling, more dancing, and some warming mulled wine.

If you’ve got children, it’s a fun event for them all round, but as a single adult, attending on my own, I found the dance through the streets – holding hands with a chain of hundreds of strangers – a fantastically fun, communal way to start the year. What could be more English than dancing with strangers simply because ‘it’s tradition’?!

Oh yes, and there’s free cake: “Cakes distributed at the end of the play have a bean and a pea hidden in two of them. Those from the crowd who find them are hailed King and Queen for the day and crowned with ceremony.”

Top tip: Don’t be shy – make sure you get near the front of the dancing chain when they start to arrange it – The George’s bar area is very small, and if you want any hope of getting the mulled wine, or joining in the storytelling, you need to make sure you get there before the rest of the chain.


What: Twelfth Night Mummers’ Play

Where: Southbank – starts outside the Globe theatre, then moves on to The George Inn.

When: Sunday 5th January 2020 (and annually on the Sunday closest to 6th Jan), starts 2pm

How much: Free (you need to pay for any drinks at the pub at the end)

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