Thursday, December 13, 2012


Cameo Players at Hylands House

"Mr Dickens dead ? Then will Father Christmas die too ?" Such was the identification of the merry-making with the "man who invented Christmas" in the popular Victorian mind.
Cameo Players' accomplished actors reminded us, in this year's Hylands House festivities, that many of the traditions we know and love were invented, or revived, in the nineteenth century, and most of them were celebrated in the works of Charles Dickens. Reeking punch, Mr Winkle getting his skates on, old Mrs Wardle and her ghost story, Fezziwig's ball, and a Christmas Carol, of course, with Alfred Knightbridge as Scrooge to the life.
Some less familiar, less Victorian pieces too. Particularly moving were Wendy Cope's The Christmas Life, read by Vicky Tropman, and Leonard Clark's Singing In The Streets, read by Lindsay Lloyd, who devised this seasonal anthology.
Music from Doublet maintained the atmosphere, with The Snow It Melts the Soonest, and Mr Wardle's very own Dingley Dell carol amongst the crackers on offer.
And a tongue-in-cheek finish, a doggerel panto version of A Christmas Carol, ["I promise you I will atone / Please scrub my name from off that stone!"] with John Peregrine wearing paper chains as Marley's Ghost, and tinsel as Christmas Past, Philip Wilson as Cratchit, Sarah Slaughter as Tiny Tim, Belle, and the Boy who fetches the prize turkey.

Bring in a tree, a young Norwegian spruce,
Bring hyacinths that rooted in the cold.
Bring winter jasmine as its buds unfold -
Bring the Christmas life into this house.
Bring red and green and gold, bring things that shine,
Bring candlesticks and music, food and wine.
Bring in your memories of Christmas past.
Bring in your tears for all that you have lost.
Bring in the shepherd boy, the ox and ass,
Bring in the stillness of an icy night,
Bring in the birth, of hope and love and light.
Bring the Christmas life into this house.

Singing in the Streets

I had almost forgotten the singing in the streets,
Snow piled up by the houses, drifting
Underneath the door into the warm room,
Firelight, lamplight, the little lame cat
Dreaming in soft sleep on the hearth, mother dozing,
Waiting for Christmas to come, the boys and me
Trudging over blanket fields waving lanterns to the sky.
I had almost forgotten the smell, the feel of it all,
The coming back home, with girls laughing like stars,
Their cheeks, holly berries, me kissing one,
Silent-tongued, soberly, by the long church wall;
Then back to the kitchen table, supper on the white cloth,
Cheese, bread, the home-made wine:
Symbols of the Night`s joy, a holy feast.
 And I wonder now, years gone, mother gone,
The boys and girls scattered, drifted away with the snow-flakes,
Lamplight done, firelight over,
If the sounds of our singing in the streets are still there,
Those old tunes, still praising:
And now, a life-time of Decembers away form it all,
A branch of remembering holly spears my cheek,
And I think it may be so;
Yes, I believe it may be so.

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