Shoppers, families and visitors to Walsall joined the Mayor of Walsall Cllr Dennis Anson (pictured, above) on Saturday in enjoying and applauding a traditional Black Country street theatre treat with a Walsall edge.
Walsall Civic Society’s second new “Mummer’s Play” The Alchemist and the Devil was penned by top local playwright David Calcutt and performed by a talented cast of local volunteers and project workers as part of the society’s Heritage Lottery-Funded Bayard’s Colts Project.
The play, which was directed by Glen Buglass and performed in the open air on Walsall’s ancient High Street, offered both history and hilarity, music and mayhem – and delivered all this and more in spades! From a mad French Alchemist (wizard), capering minions and a decidedly saucy comedy Sister Dora to scary spooks, a personal appearance from The Lord of the Flies and his inevitable defeat by the mighty Bayard and the Black Country spirit of Walsall, the quite literally all-singing and all-dancing show led by narrator ‘The Tat Man’ captivated and amazed hundreds on the High Street throughout the day.
The original Bayard’s Colts, which are held by Walsall Museum in Lichfield Street, are a unique collection of seventeen clubs which used to be carried behind the Mayor in ceremonial processions at the openings of markets and fairs and on other civic occasions.
At one time they were kept in the Guild Hall when it was the police court and the seat of local government, then later they were mounted on a wall at Walsall Magistrate’s Court for many decades, until recently, when the project was initiated by Walsall Civic Society working in partnership with Walsall Museum, Walsall Council and other partners.
Walsall’s colts, which are unique, are at least 300 years old but their exact age, origins and how they got their name are shrouded in mystery – though new research is now taking place and it is believed that there are links with Carolingian legends of the mighty horse Bayard and his Thousand Colts.
The latest in the series of four special Mummer’s Plays commissioned by Walsall Civic Society (the first was Robin Hood and The Giant, unveiled in August) was performed on Saturday at 11am, 1pm and 3pm.
The Mayor said in advance of the event:
“I watched another play earlier this year and it was a real crowd puller – the Walsall Civic Society is doing the project proud.
“We should seize the opportunity to celebrate Walsall’s heritage and history at every turn and the Bayard’s Colts certainly have an intriguing past.”
Tony Kemshall, project director added: “This vibrant and colourful street theatre not only brings something unique to the town but has also helped start the campaign to highlight the Walsall story Of the Bayard’s Colts.
“Thanks to the Heritage Lottery Fund and key local partners the Bayard’s Colts are a strand of local history that we can all be very proud of.”
MISSED IT? IT’S NOT TOO LATE!
There is also a special indoor showcase event highlighting the project and including a live performance of The Alchemist and The Devil at The Peformance Hub at University of Wolverhampton Walsall campus, Gorway Road, Walsall, on Saturday 24 November.
Performances will be at 2.30pm and 7.30pm and the Mayor will attend the 2.30pm show. Tickets cost £5 and proceeds go to help support the project.
WALSALL MUSEUM TALK 4th DECEMBER
The story of the Colts themselves, as far as is known, will be revealed in a special public talk at Walsall Museum on 4th December. The talk will explore the theories about the possible origins and age of the Bayard’s Colts, as well as presenting what is known of their history from documentary and other sources.
It will be presented by Jennifer Thomson, Community History Curator at Walsall Museum, who has been undertaking research into their history. People attending the talk will be able to view the original Colts for themselves and contribute their own ideas to the debate on their origins.
The talk, entitled ‘The Curious History of the Bayard’s Colts’, takes place on Tuesday 4th December from 2-3pm. It costs £1 per person to attend and advance booking is essential as places are limited. Please contact the Museum on 01922 653116 or email firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your place.
To see many more pictures of Saturday’s first performance of The Alchemist and The Devil, check out The Bloxwich Telegraph’s Flickr Album via this link.