Review – Slippin the fur in wit t’middle fin . November 14th. 2002.
The Great Plague of 1665 echoed through the air on a star lit night in Crickhowell outside a house called The Wilds. Our psycho-geography tour had started at 2pm in Cardiff when our Good and Bad Cop guides ( John Rowley and Richard Huw Morgan ) led us out on a mind bending pilgrimage. A journey through past memorials of superstition and rumour.
Throughout our 5 hour journey we were variously cast as scouts, film crews, wedding guests and archaeologists and close to 7.30 pm we arrived into a tented area lit with torches and decked with garlands where our guides were preparing for their presentation of a Mystery Play as we all sit around a fire with our beers, listening to the wind howl.
It was a dark night and very appropriate for the Play of the Doctors.
We had shifted so many shapes in the course of this long days journey into night we had become strolling minstrels ourselves and were more than happy to sing impromptu songs to keep ourselves warm.
We had become travellers or seekers, as Ken Campbell used to call his audience ,and had moved into another time zone. In fact we were occupying many centuries at once.
Unsure if we were counting the cost of the burials in Clerkenwell (as Defoe describes in his Plague Journals ) or walking over the mass grave of the carcasses of cows in this years Foot and Mouth horror, we became conjurors summoning up the spirits of protection. A Super 8 film of the Narnia Chronicles played a shadowy excerpt of an archival performance of the mythic exit/entrance from one world to another and we immediately understood we were ghostly incomers outside and that this was all new but strangely familiar territory.
In the distance we could see lights from a road but very little traffic.
A map had been drawn on the ground of Essex ( Defoes’ protagonists, also called John and Richard , escaped to Epping from the Plague) and the Cops played out their scene inside its boundaries. The flickering light of the dying embers of a fire casting shadows over their faces as they spoke. All of which culminated in an invitation to escape the possible horrors from over the hill by following these two genial doctors into the house for warmth and stronger drink. And who were we to refuse? As the last lines of their play said :
Full well is me this tyde
Now may we make good chere
No longer wyll we byde
Ffar well all folk in fere
It was a late night but we lived to tell the tale .