The Warburton Souling Play - Performances 2019
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The Saracen's Head logo An interpretation, from our perspective, of how each evening was received.

Now we're out and about for 2019 this page is where you'll find a few notes and observation, from our perspective of course, about how the performances in 2019 were received. 

First Night - 1st November 2019

The Gang ready to leave for the first performance of 2018. (Photo: Laurence Armstrong)

The Gang ready to leave for the Saracen's Head for their first performance of 2019. 

Well, this was a very nice start to the season with the Saracen's Head as full as we've ever seen it for the first performance there. a good number of people in, mainly diners but with many of those in viewing distance watching.

From here the rest of out first night was spent in Lymm where first we went to the Bull's Head. Probably on the quieter side of what we've known but still continuing the feeling of a good evening. After here it was to the Spread Eagle and this was the only pub of the evening we we could honestly was was very quiet. Still there were people in and it was well received by them with many of them thanking us at the end.

Two more to go, and being across the road from each other not far between them. First of these was the Saddler's Arms and this is always a splendid pub to play in as it always quiet and attentive. It certainly left us with the most satisfying feeling of the evening. The last one, the brewery tap across the road. This can be difficult as it has two areas, one at the front and the other at the rear with a short passage between. It usually involves the Turkish Champion having to die in the passage so as the Doctor can be seen from both halves. Still a good end to a very enjoyable first night.

So, tomorrow we're into Knutsford for what should be a busy evening with six venues to do.

Second Night - 2nd November 2019

Our second evening was spent in Knutsford starting at the Builders Arms. It's always nice to be here as it's a nice cosy atmosphere and an attentive audience. It was an interesting start from our perspective as the Driver's car ended up with a puncture so he didn't make to to the pub in time. We therefore had to have the Doctor bring on the horse at the end. 

Up the road next to the Legh Arms and a somewhat busy and noisy pub as a local bonfire had just finished and many people had come for a drink there. Whilst it was hard work to make ourselves heard we did have the pleasure of two families with children there who were extremely fascinated by it all. 

We now moved into the centre of the town and the Rose and Crown. Busy and a bit noisy again but nevertheless well received and enjoyable. The next two were two 'wine bar' type establishments, the Wine and Wallop and the Project 53. Both were well received and if anything a bit on the quiet side especially the latter. 

The Gang after the last performance of the evening in the Lord Eldon in Knutsford (Photo: Laurence Armstrong)

The Gang after the last performance of the evening in the Lord Eldon in Knutsford. 

Two more to go with the first being the White Bear. Now this was quiet. There being three people in that we could see when we arrived, however by the time we did start a few more had come in to make it worthwhile. Last was therefore to our usual finishing pub for the night, the Lord Eldon. It's always a nice and cosey atmosphere here. The rear room had a disco type evening going and this was switched off as soon as we started with everyone from in there crowding in to watch us in the front room. It's always good to finish here and this was no exception.

Third Night - 6th November 2019

The third evening was on a Wednesday and midweek days can always prove a problem as they can usually be quite quiet. This was the case this evening. 

We started at the Kilton Inn, a new venue to us, or at least a good while as there are recollections of us performing in the pub when we first revived the play some 40 years ago now. There were a few people in and those there seemed to enjoy it. We were told that as the Kilton is partnered with a travel lodge at the back it's a bit erratic as to whether it's heaving or quiet - all depending upon how many of the guests decide to eat in the pub. Still a good start.

The next was a regular, the Wheatsheaf in Broomedge. We were told to be there at 8:30pm prompt as there is a quiz starting at 9:00pm. We were therefore expecting a few people to be there. As it transpired it were only a few in by 8:30. After discussion with the licensee, if we visit again on a Wednesday we'll arrange to arrive later on during a break in the quiz. But still better than being empty which is what the next pub more or less was. Just a handful in. being quiet it did give our latest member chance to have a go under the horse.

Next the Jolly Thresher and continuing the theme of small audiences. It was however, well received by those there. The next pub was the community pub in Statham, the Star Inn. This also had a quiz night on and we'd arranged that there would be a break in the quiz for when we arrived. And what a splendid spot that was. A full pub of attentive people that made for a very enjoyable performance. 

Last was back up the road to the Crown. More an eatery at the back but still with a bar area in the front. Back to the quiet theme of the evening but again those there very attentive and enjoying it - even if we were interrupting their games evening.

All told, a quiet evening but with enough highlights and new audiences now aware of the tradition to make it worthwhile and enjoyable.

Forth Night - 7th November 2019

Well what a wet day this was. Raining all day, floods all over the country and we had to go out in it to perform the play. Fortunately most of the pubs had nearby car parks so we didn't have to go far in the open and the only distance we did have to walk the rain did eased off for us. 

We started at Jacksons Boat with a quiet performance there. Just a few people as the intended Bingo and Disco night didn't happen due to the weather. From here to the Bridge Inn and a splendid well received performance there. We did have one complaint, however upon further inquiries it seems the gentleman concerned was having a bad evening before we got there anyway! Plenty of chatting to interested people afterwards.

Next the drive into Urmston and one of our favourites, the Steamhouse. It's always good in here, and whilst the weather had kept people at home it was still good and well received.

A walk to the Prairie Schooner and again another well received performance. Always difficult here as it has two rooms, one front and one rear so the Turkish Champion has to 'die' in the section between so as everyone has sight of the Doctor's performance. From here to another 'bar cafe' type venue, the Brewchimp. It's a splendid small venue but full with everyone paying attention.

To the last one now, the Church Inn in Flixton. Again another favourite venue we've been doing for years. It was quiz night so they took a break whilst we performed. Always a good finish to the night.

Fifth Night - 8th November 2019

The first of our last two days was our now usual tour starting at the Greyhound in Ashley and moving onto Altrincham, although we did introduce a new pub for this year. The Greyhound was its usual excellent self as it's always a busy early evening pub. 

From here to our new venue, the Gardener's Arms in Timperley. This has recently had a refurbishment and is now run by the same management company that runs our 'home' pub, the Saracen's Head. The manager was expecting us and had arranged all those interested in the play in one half of the pub and those wanting the Rugby on the TV in the other half. It came into the category of hard work with the general background noise but nevertheless it was very rewarding. We'll be back next year.

We now moved into Altrincham for a walking tour round most of them and that started at the Market Tavern. Here we go on between the live band's sound check and them starting. It seemed a bit quiet this year and so didn't quite have the buzz about it as it usually does. Not surprising perhaps as the venue is under threat as the building is being sold.

Next was, well, next door to the Orange Tree. Very quiet with only a few in although one or two more did appear as and after we started. Down the hill next to the Malt Shovels. The usual number in here and it was all very well received again as it's quite a cosy atmosphere.

Last a quick trip to the other side of Altrincham to Costello's. This is an open glass fronted pub so the element of surprise is always lost a bit. It was a bit quieter than usual people wise, however the noise they were making more than made up for it. The Enterer therefore didn't quite make the impression he wanted and it took King George's entrance to get their attention.

All round it was a good evening even though we were playing to less people than usual.

Last Day - Saturday 9th November 2019

And so this is it, our last day of Souling for 2019. After meeting for lunch at the Saracen's Head we were off to perform in St Werburgh's Church at the Autumn Fair. This is a most splendid location to perform in, and performing the play in the heart of the community to whom it belongs. 

Click for larger view

The Gang ready to perform at the Autumn Fair in St Werburgh's Church
at the start of their last day of Souling for 2019

Back to the pub for a while before we head out for the evening tour. It's always a bit rushed this part of the tour as we've a few pubs to cover around the area. The Black Swan was first over the other side of the Manchester Ship Canal. Always a few early evening drinkers in here and this was no exception, although maybe a few less than normal. This was a trend that was to continue for the evening, probably due to the spell of rather (very) inclement weather the country has been experiencing for the last few weeks, or probably months now!!

So in the rain we then head back over the ship canal and the Bridgewater Canal to another swan, the Swan with Two Nicks in Little Bollington. Nessled between the Bridgewater Canal and the River Bollin this is a nice cosy pub that had just a few in but those there being very interested in it all. Back round to the Saracen's side of the Bridgewater Canal - yes these canals and rivers in the area do get in the way all the time making a <1 mile as the crow flies journey into a 3+ mile road journey - this time to the first of a group of three pub in Dunham, Axe and Cleaver. 

This is mainly an eating pub and so we were presented with a busy pub with quite a few diners all seemingly in the middle of their meal at the same time. Usually we can avoid disturbing those eating by keeping closer to those having finished or waiting, however this time that was very difficult. Still it seemed to go down fine in the end.

The second of the three was the Vine Inn and we played to a few in the bar area. Whilst we were performing there we were asked by a tearful lady if we could do a special performance for her Father in the back room who'd just been given just a few weeks to live. So obliging and under a bit of time pressure we did a very quick run through for him to which heartfelt thanks we given from the family and friends there.

The last of the three was an almost deserted Rope and Anchor. Not what we usually expect here. It's always difficult with  just a few in to 'lift' the performance to level we normally expect for the run in to the last performance of the year, however it did go down well with the few watching. So, two more to go.

The first of these was the Green Dragon in Heatley and this was beginning to feel like it should do with a good few in the pub to give us the lift needed. Back on our bus for the evening and off up the road to the Saracen's Head. 

A music session was in full swing when we arrived so once it was pointed out to them that the play was here a lot of them crowded into the bar area to watch. A fitting end to what on balance has been a good year.

So that's it, all done and 50 weeks to wait until we do it all again.

This page updated: 12th November 2019.