A new Somerset myth has been created and it’s being told aboard a 1920’s Shepton-Mallet made Charabanc that’s weaving its way at a Somerset pace (slowly, gently) around the Levels and the villages of Huish Episcopi, Langport and Muchelney, from Eli’s/Rose and Crown and back again.
Pulled by Suffolk Punch horses, Barney and George, and driven by the hauntingly quiet Ivan, Wassail and Reve(a)l Theatre’s The Somerset Charabanc opens our eyes to the beauty of this part of our county, as we pass rhynes and fields, populated by hawthorn, brambles, reeds, willow – so much willow – on this blustery and potentially stormy Sunday afternoon in September.
Our guide, Pete (Nick White), tells us about his grandparents, Slippery George and Pearl, Long Beard Pete and Kate, gaining our trust before the myth is unravelled, before the truth is revealed. The myth of the Elies, part human, part eel. The myth of a love story (or two) and the myth of how the Somerset Levels came to be flooded year after year. I am reminded of goddesses and of folklore and of the Pagan rituals that surround the town of Glastonbury, helped in no small way by the welcome presence of local storyteller Sarah Mooney, the eleventh Chaired Bard of Ynys Witrin.
As our cosy audience of 15 is driven around the countryside, we become aware of how close we are to nature and of how we act as individuals can have a detrimental effect on the future of all of us. The story unfolds, as we are joined on the trundling Charabanc by other colourful characters, who must find their way in this world. Death, betrayal, love and compromise – all have their place in the story, as in life. As do the elements, made real before our eyes, connecting us evermore with our surroundings. Bonding.
Storytelling, folk songs (including some once collected locally by Cecil Sharp), movement, comedy and the wide, great outdoors give us a truly original piece of family theatre to remember. Or as my 11 year old daughter said, “Magical”.
The Somerset Charabanc continues to roll lazily around the Somerset Levels this week. Find more information on Wassail Theatre’s website
Image by Paul Blakemore (c), with thanks