The Warburton Souling Play - Performances 2014
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The Saracen's Head logo An interpretation, from our perspective, of how each evening was received.

On this page it where you'll find a few notes and comments from our perspective about how the performances in 2014 were received. 

The first night - Friday 1st November 2014

We there we are again, the assembled Gang ready to go to the Saracen's Head to get this year's Warburton Souling Play season off to a start.

The first night was one of a mixed outcome. The Saracen's Head was the venue for a 50th birthday party so we started the night off with a good start and a suitably full pub. The person who's birthday party it was commenting that all her pears get a strip-o-gram and she gets a Souling Play! From here we went to the Crown in Lymm and unfortunately we'd just missed one group who left to go to another party, however those left seemed to enjoy the play. This included a pair of brothers who'd come to see us, finally making it after 10 years of intending to do so as one of them had come up from Devon and the other from Warrington. Next to the Star in Statham and a very small audience, but nevertheless a very satisfying 'cosy' performance.

Half way through and onto the Jolly Thresher where we caught the last of the evenings diners and another attentive reception. From there to the Wheatshief and to the sounds of a disco coming from inside that made our heart drop. Not to worry though as the landlord went inside and it was all turned off whilst we performed. And we performed to a set of sound effects that had obviously been prepared in advance and made ready for the performance. 

As we were leaving here we had a call from a friend that the next pub, The Vine in Dunham Massey was closing early. We made haste round to the Vine for and arrived at our arranged time of 10.30pm - just as the lights were being turned off and people were leaving. All very disappointing so off we went 200 yards down the road to the Rope and Anchor for a quiet drink. A 'flat' end to what otherwise was a good start to the season.

Second night - Tuesday 4th November

One of the problems we always encounter with a season that involves mid week dates is the quietness of the pubs, especially the more rural ones in the earlier part of the week. This Tuesday highlighted that problem. We try and start a little bit earlier and concentrate on the pubs catering for the earlier evening custom. However even with this, our first venue, the Barn Owl, apparently had most people arriving much earlier than usual for meals and so most had left by the time we arrived. Not a good start. And it didn't get any better, the Old No3 had a grand total of zero people in. We duly made our apologies and went straight to our next, the Rope and Anchor in Dunham.

We've not played the Rope' for several years as it did close down but was then taken over and reopened as a high class dining pub. However it's recently changed hands again and is now run by a manager who previously managed another pub in Dunham where we still perform. We'd been tracked down by the manager to come and perform at the Rope - we duly did so tonight. It was however, quiet again with most of the diners having already left.

So to make up we decided to go back to the Vine just down the road where we were due to perform on the Saturday evening but the pub closed early due to a family illness. We were surprised to find quite a few people in, more then the previous two put together. This did start to make up for the poor evening so far.

From here it was into Lymm where the last three are all in walking distance. The first, The Saddlers was quiet by normal standards, but certainly had the most in so far. Then to the Spread Eagle where the Manager had been promoting ourselves and the Antrobus Soulcakers (who perform there on Saturday). This had paid off as there were a number of people who'd come along to see us. This was probably the best of the evening with a good number of people there that always goes towards a more buoyant performance. Finally to The Bull and this was back to only a few in. A disappointing end to the night, but we look forward to the Knutsford tour tomorrow evening that, with some reservations with it being Bonfire Night, should be well populated.  

Third night - Wednesday 5th November

As it turned out this Wednesday was just as quiet as the previous night. Even the staff in the various pubs where we performed commented it was quiet for a Wednesday, presumably due to it being the 5th and Bonfire Night.

We started at the Builders on the outskirts of Knutsford and we normally expect this to be quiet. It was much as expected with one table of rather bemused youngsters all claiming to be poverty stricken when the hat went round but who wern't that short to stop them going to the bar! Anyway after a drink here ourselves we headed off to the Lord Eldon. This is always a nice cosy pub to perform in and again it was much as expected, although a bit quieter than normal. A good audience with people appearing from out of the side rooms to see it.

To The Folly next, recently renamed from The Freemasons, where there was one group who'd popped in to see us as a result of the various posters the Manager had put up. Again quieter than normal but very enjoyable. After that to the last two that we normally expect to be full to heaving - but not this night. The first of the two, the Rose and Crown. had much the same numbers as in the previous (smaller) pubs but nevertheless very attentive towards the play. The last one, the Cross Keys had fewer in and had us having to contend with the cheering from a 'yard of ale' challenge in the Tap Room! The largest table whilst watching the play, showed little interest when the hat came round other than bringing bad luck upon themselves by asking Beelzebub to be bought a replacement drink! Tut tut.

Fourth night - Thursday 6th November

And so the quietness continues. Whilst this night should really have been described as not that bad there were still far fewer people around than one would have expected. I say 'should really have been' as it was also marred by one gentleman in the first pub, the Old Plough, who made a big fool of himself by physically trying to stop the play after he was selected by Beelzebub to be relieved of a drink. The first time that anything like this has ever happened to us ever since the play was revived. It unfortunately just added to the pain of what was fast becoming a very poor year.

After this we went straight onto the Volunteer in Sale where we performed to the pre quiz audience. We were asked to perform there slightly earlier than we have in previous years so as a result there were less people in than one would normally have had when starting 10-15 minutes later. Still it was well received and appreciated by everyone, including the new Manager.

 From here we headed to Urmston and the Roebuck where the quietness continued. The bar staff commenting that it had been unusually quiet all week. Yes we'd noticed!! The Steamhouse was next where it's Open Mic Night and as usual a good appreciative crowd. To the Church Inn in Flixton where we waited outside for a few minutes for the Quiz to reach a suitable break before starting. All nicely timed so as we benefited from a pub full of people.

Ordinarily this would have been an acceptable night, quieter yes, but OK. It was however very much soured by one person.

Fifth night - Friday 7th November

So with two nights left we were all feeling a bit nervous as to how tonight was going to go. Surely it couldn't get worse? Well fortunately it didn't and the first pub, The Greyhound in Ashley, was more than adequately full at 7.30pm and so we were the recipient of a very good reception.

It can be a bit of a rush this tour, but we still had time for a drink and a chat to people before heading off into Altrincham and the first one there, Costello's. Perhaps not quite as full as we've known but nevertheless enough and a good performance followed. After being bought a drink by the manager we moved onto the second in Altrincham, the Malt Shovels where there's always a welcoming crowd and is always well received. No change in that tonigh thank goodnesst. The third one here, the Market Tavern was again excellent as it more often than not is.

Two more to do and the first was the Quarry Bank in Timperley. There was a bit more audience participation than normal for this performance, as the Turkish Champion found out when someone else tried to revive him! Again we were thanked by the staff there with us being given free drinks at the end. A gesture always fully appreciated by the Gang.

We had heard earlier that our last one, the Railway in Hale, has been exceptionally busy recently (well I suppose the people must have been drinking somewhere!) and so we braced ourselves for a rather loud and hectic peformance. We waited until quite a few people had left to leave us some room. Unfortunately loads more arrived just after we'd started to fill the place up again resulting in that loud and hectic performance being needed. We've made a note that it's about time we came earlier to this pub next year.

In the end this was a very successful evening and  was going some way to undoing the memories of the first few nights.

Sixth Night, or rather Day - Saturday 8th November

This is the day we look forward to, although it's always tinged with sadness with it being the last of the season.

After meeting at the Saracen's Head in Warburton for lunch we headed out to the church were we performed at the Autumn Fair. As always it's a surreal experience doing the play in the church. After waiting for the raffle to be drawn, only to find that none of us won anything this year, we went to perform the play for the residents of Cotebrook House, our chosen charity.

From here back to the Saracen's Head for some more solid and liquid refreshments before we head out to the evening session.

The first of these being the Axe and Cleaver in Dunham. It's always a nice reception here and this was no exception. However whilst there we had heard that our next pub had closed for the evening following an incident with one of their fireplaces. So we had slightly longer here before heading to the Black Swan in Hollins Green. It was a new manager here and she was a little unsure about having us, however she was persuaded by the bar staff who'd seen the play before. After what was probably the best audience and reception so far of the season, she commented that it was wonderful and she was very glad she had been persuaded.

Three to go and the first of these was the Brewery Tap in Lymm. This is the second time we've performed here, the pub only being open just under two years. After a quick chat with the manager we found we had a splendid reception as there were just that fewer number of people in this year than last that enabled the play be delivered much better.

Two to go. The next one being the green Dragon in Heatley where we know we have an enthusiastic manager with a very busy pub. It's a long wide layout inside but this didn't detract from those in the far reaches from watching. An excellent penultimate performance of the year.

And so the the last one, the Saracen's Head, and the last performance for 2014. Alway a lively performance this last one, and one of mixed emotions with it being the last for the year. And so that was it, all over. The evening continued though with its usual session of singing and music, and of course not forgetting the butties and chips provided by the pub.

See the Itinerary for more details of where we went.

This page updated: 9th November 2014.