The Warburton Souling Play - Performances 2009
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The Saracen's Head logo An interpretation, from our perspective, of how each evening was received.

On this page it is normal for us to give a brief description of how we got on in each venue for each evening.  

The First Night - 2nd November 2009

The Gang at Larchfield House ready to leave for the Saracen's Head

The Gang at Larchfield House ready to leave for the Saracen's Head

Well, another Souling season is underway. The evening started off good enough at The Saracen’s Head and although we arrived there just as around 10 or so people departed we still had a good contingent from Bollin Morris as an audience. From there it was to a very quiet Axe & Cleaver, around a dozen people at most, but we'd been warned that it's a bit erratic on a Monday so it was no surprise. 

We had a wait here as we were told to be at the Wheatsheaf in Agden at 10.00 as there was a darts match on that night and that it should be finishing about that time. Unfortunately when we got there a considerable number of the players had departed back to their home pub. It was still a nice atmosphere with a good number of people still there. For a Monday night it would be classed as a good audience - it was a little disappointing as it could have been better. To add to this Beelzebub unfortunately was unable to acquire a drink as the incumbent he’d chosen to donate it had seen the play before so the drinks had mysteriously vanished as he approached! 

From there to the Vine in Dunham where there was a quiz on. We were told would be finished around 10.30pm. However a similar scenario transpired here because just as we got there at just after 10.30pm it was obvious the quiz had finished and everyone was leaving! We were left with just the regulars at the bar who gave us a good reception and nevertheless a good end to the evening.

So that's it for the first night, A day's rest and then we go to Knutsford on Wednesday.

The Second Night - 4th November 2009

Wednesday night: we thought we all might like to visit Knutsford, that town named after a guy who held the tide back. As it turned out he seemed also to have turned back the tide of visitors to the pubs as they were all very quiet.

But still, we started walking around in the rain and after deciding The Angle was more or less empty went and performed first at the atmospheric Cross Keys on Bottom Street. Quite a good crowd there and very appreciative of our efforts, and the Landlord was suitably welcoming. Some good ale from a wide choice was consumed of course, in this CAMRA rated pub.

Seeing the desertion of the streets we then went back to The Angle and deciding it was no better went instead to The Lord Eldon (small, cosy and warm with a nice range of real ales....) where the numbers were down but again, welcoming with some very interested drinkers keeping us talking about the Play afterwards.

A third visit to The Angle where we decided on a quick performance quick to the very few in the bright, cheerful and TV-strewn pub. This was followed by the short, wet walk to The White Bear. A really old pub, with beams to bang your heads on, which some of us felt like doing when we were ignored by some in favour of the post Champions League Football summaries on the plethora of TVs. The bar staff are great here though and very friendly, so we got away with it. Advice was given on the best time to visit and more beer here of course...

Then off to the last pub for the night, the Builders. This is a tiny local, and split into two halves as you enter, but in we did enter and turned right into the lounge where a small (again!) but enthusiastic audience really seemed to appreciate The Play. Nice range of beers consumed again, lovely staff ....
With thanks to The Doc
The Third Night - 5th November 2009

So to the Thursday 5th November. Offering our own inimitable form of fireworks we went to Lymm and Urmston this night, and all entered the spirit of The Play with great gusto, including, as our Enterer, a blast from the past in the guise of Mr J. R. Seed who transformed the part from excellent to excellent!

The pubs, despite the promise of duller fireworks elsewhere and the continuing dampness around the weather regions, had far greater numbers in than on Wednesday and in all the establishments jollity and attention abounded in equal measure. This was to much relief of the Gang having endured the previous Knutsford tour.

The Spread Eagle was still relatively quiet though (except for the folk club which on this occasion we left alone.. great audience in the past, but they sounded like they were having a good show upstairs) but attentive. From there it was a walk to The Bull, where the Landlord (a happy chappie!) served us Antrobus Pies after the performance. We were pleased to eat of the meat of our fellow soulers, and very fine pies they made... tasted like fine pork... Lovely pub this, warm and welcoming and one we always enjoy visiting.

Then a walk down the canal side to the last of our Lymm pubs for the night, The Saddlers. Very busy, very warm and a splendid audience which included a very biddable real doctor and his friends. I do hope we caused no professional disquiet as he entered into the banter most obligingly and made the performance a memorable one. We'd heard that the landlord was not too well at present and that his brother was in charge, however it was very reassuring to see the landlord propping up the end of the bar with a pint in his hand. A very relieving sight. 

Off to Urmston and the Roebuck. This was updated after a fire last year and has a different atmosphere these days, but the folk there were still very welcoming and interested, the landlady contributed nicely to the collection in absentia, we all had a drink of fine ale.

And to end, The Church Inn at Flixton. Another real pub, with a new and very gracious landlord, welcoming locals and another set of fine ales to follow a very lively Entering and following performance.

A much better night, much jollity all round and our thanks to all the pubs and folks involved. It felt as though we were beginning that reassuring climb in enjoyment of our last day of Souling.
Again with thanks to The Doc

The Fourth Night - 6th November 2009

Friday night.....
Always a good night, but as described by The Enterer this one started brilliantly, continued brilliantly and ended brilliantly! In the very succinct words of great literary merit (just like the words of The Play).... WOW!

We met at the Cheshire Midland in Hale to don our alter egos and, with Sam Smith's in hand, met quite a few folk who all seemed very enthusiastic about what we were doing, including one young lad whose father does a trad play in Cornwall and another who had studied trad plays and similar drama at Salford University.... perhaps these omens boded well.. We've not done the Cheshire Midland for some time as it had become a kid's pub. As the atmosphere seemed fine to us there was discussion as to whether it was time to give it another go. Perhaps next year.

Off for the first performance to The Greyhound at Ashley, where we have often been met with enthusiasm. Stunning crowd this year, a pretty full pub with a big party entertaining an Australian near the entry door. They all joined in with cheering and I doubt he's seen anything like that entertainment in Oz! Generous as well as we went round with the hats and dripping pan. Beelzebub managed to nick a good pint... from an unaware Landlord propping up his own bar! This is probably a first and a very welcome departure from the norm. He took it in good part too and was very interested in The Play and what's more important he bought us all a drink. Were more than welcome for next year - goody goody!

Leaving such a successful venue is difficult, especially as it was more enjoyable than all the previous night put together,  but leave we did to venture to the Malt Shovels in Altrincham. Good audience here, not quite so busy but attentive and cheerful. Nice ales supped again and good to see a 'Town Pub' doing so well. Most of the people in there seemed very familiar to the Enterer as he did his bit and this was confirmed by Beelzebub because as soon as he went it most visible pints vanished of tables!

Up the lane to The Market Tavern where what can only be described as a boisterous crowd met us in bewilderment! Difficult to play to as it was pretty noisy, but we drew the folk in and they were very generous towards the end. We apologise to the young boy who was scared out of his wits by the entry of Dick, T'Hoss, but can only suggest an earlier bed time. Perhaps in years to come, when the memory of last night's nightmares have receded, he will be back to enjoy the performances after 2020.

Leaving Altrincham in our wake and by now in full cry, loving every minute of the best night so far of this year's performances, we moved to The Quarry Bank in Timperley.
We were met by some friends just leaving, who, when asking the staff when we were expected, had found total denial of our imminent arrival.... They went back in, and we followed lustily into a great welcome! Busy pub, lots of laughter before we got there, lots of noise, but what a venue for us! Pulled the crowd in, performed at our very best, apart from the Doctor who muffed his lines a bit when confronted by some rather attractive dumplings just after uttering the line about paving roads, and great applause at the end. A triumph! And very generous again.... and more ale supped.

Then, finally, to what appears sometimes to be our spiritual home, The Railway in Hale. Rammed to the doors, the Enterer literally "making way" for the merry actors to come in... Time for the Enterer to fluff his lines here as he had to get some people out of the way. But the effect was there and it was quickly forgotten when King George came in. Why this place is so good is hard to fathom. Hardly anyone can hear or see us but they love it!! A great performance again, at full vocal throttle, and great response from the furthest corners of the pub. Then The Driver took over the fund-raising by singing, shall we say here, some risque songs to some Irish ladies. The result was a further 50 for Multiple Sclerosis!! Many thanks to them. Terrific to see, terrific to hear (?!)and the end of a Wonderful Night. The result of this night was a staggering record collection (all for MS) of nearly 400... and we enjoyed every minute of the night. Memories will last long.

One thought: King George, hero bold, champion of champions, struggles these days to be mobile (due to wearing armour too long I guess), but give him a Turkish Champion to fight and he is up there with the greats!
Yet again with thanks to The Doc

And so to the Last Day - 7th November 2009

The Gang after returning from the Church (including a second Beelzebub)

The Gang Having returned from performing at the Church's Autumn Fair

As in previous years we met in the Saracen’s Head at 1.00pm for a drink and some lunch before walking down Bent Lane to Warburton Church to the Autumn Fair there. When we arrived people were already leaving, however we managed to persuade them to go back into the church and so felt obliged to start the performance some three or four minutes before the allotted time of 2.30pm. It’s always a very different performance that takes place in the church (notwithstanding the lack of a drink for Beelzebub) and this time was no different. Slightly fewer people at the Fair than in previous years, and of no surprise to us in view of the week of very poor weather. This day also being damp and drizzly.

After the fair it was back to Saracen’s Head for a relax and possibly(!) another beer (and some pudding in same cases) before our Taxi arrived to take us over to the other side on the Bridgewater Canal to the Swan with Two Nicks at Little Bollington. This pub is split into two sections by a central bar. The front has the smaller amount of space but is much more cosy. The rear has the other side of the bar however has a much more spread out dining area, and this goes back a long way. In the past we’ve generally played in this area at the back using the rear door for entry, however on this occasion as the few people dining were very spread out we elected to perform in the front. A good decision in the end as it worked well helped by a very impressive roaring log fire in the front room.

Into the Taxi again for the journey back to the other side of the canal and into Dunham to perform for a second time in the week at the Axe & Cleaver. As was turning out to be the theme for this year (apart from the Friday tour) the pub was nothing like as well filled as it usually is. Still those that were there enjoyed it and we’re more than welcome to go back next year. Chatting to the manager later it seems even he was a bit concerned over the quiet week they'd just had!

No Taxi this time and instead a walk down the road to the bus stop at The Big Tree for the bus to take us to Heatley. This year, unlike last year, the bus duly arrived, and on time, and following a few songs on board we were duly deposited right outside the Farmers Arms - to save us the short walk back from the bus stop 200 yards further along the road. The Play began and it was very quickly noticed by the Enterer that this had the makings of a good performance due to the nature of the audience and the whole ambiance of the pub. There was no need to project our voices as we usually have to, in fact other than the usual ‘loud’ entrance by each character the Play was performed in more or less ‘normal’ voices. The Doctor had a field day milking his part and ad libbing for all it’s worth. It was one of those absolutely magical performances that will be remembered for some tome to come. The Landlord thoroughly enjoys it and we’re very thankful for his 20 donation to our chosen charity of Multiple Sclerosis.

We’ve been having a habit of meeting up with quite a number of familiar faces here who come to see the Play each year, and especially a group who were having a meal to conclude a week’s shooting. They were most concerned to hear that next year we’ll be there the second Saturday of November so were keen to get their shooting week in the diary for the second week rather than the first week of November!

8.35pm so it was time to walk down the road to the Green Dragon and our penultimate performance of the year. Again people were perhaps a little thinner on the ground than in previous years, however it was a very good performance and the Manager was very appreciative of the timing of our arrival, detracting from something going a little awry within the pub. He’s more than happy to see us next year as well.

So that was it. All done bar the walk down the road from Heatley to Warburton and to the Saracen’s Head. By that time the drizzly weather conditions had passed so we had a very pleasant and clear walk down Bent Lane where we started the play precisely at our allotted time of 9.30pm. The place was full and had a very, very nice atmosphere. In the past we’ve sometimes had difficulty in making it known that we’re here as the song does not always carry when there’s lots of talking. Even when the Enterer goes in there’s an initial quietening period as the last people stop talking. This time however, a quick single rap on the door then we started the song. The Enterer subsequently went in to a silent room where you could here a pin drop. Superb! All round a very good end to the week, regardless of the premature entrance of Old Hobs – that seemed to be interpreted as a deliberate act to put Beelzebub off his evil activities of drinking someone else’s beer.

In summary it was a year to remember in many ways. There was the downright lowest point that any of can recall with the Knutsford tour where we had a dank and drizzly night and never had more the a dozen people in any one of the five pubs we went in. To counter that at the other end of the scale there was the Friday night of splendid performances, full pubs and attentive if noisy audiences where we ended up with a record collection. Then there was that magical performance and reception in the Farmers Arms on Saturday. Truly a year to remember.

So that’s it for 2009, roll on 2010 when the Warburton Souling Play will be out and about on the 1st, 5th, 6th, 11th,12th and 13th November. See you then.


This page updated: 9th November 2009.