Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Not an extended essay on cultural reproduction

These days, come a long weekend, you can barely reach the Co-op without tripping over a Civil War reenactment or a medieval living history encampment. Every stately home, National Trust and English Heritage property, garden, hedge and field - anywhere that's anywhere - must have an attendant retinue of amateurs in costume enthusiastically performing a period show.

I swear you could find everything of the common man down your local big house on a bank holiday. A punch-up, a line up. Marching, swaggering, swooning. Acting drunk, sober, bad and virtuous. Tall tales with moral endings and just deserts. Dubious jokes, bawdy references. Drinking and dressing up.

It's like the troubadours and travelling players never died; they just came to live in the National Trust.

I'm sure there are academic questions to ask about what form of history we are being invited to watch, and why we seek to represent history the way we do. But do you know? Put a beer in my hand and leave me in a field to applaud the dashing arrival of the hero on horseback, enter into the spirit of the boos and the cheers, and gasp at the enthusiastic unmasking of the villain in the orangery, then I'm happy to leave the theoretical deliberations on anthropology to the professional profs, the national commentators, and Melvyn Bragg. They can deliberate on intangible forms of cultural representation. I'm busy, invited to join in the playing of an appropriate seventeenth century ditty, Over the Hills and Far Away.

I love this twenty-first century way of  reenacting a vulgar history. So I would be utterly duff as a critical commentator. I would have to maintain a detached intellectual distance. When really, I want to drink the beer, hiss, boo, cheer, and join in.

Thank you, Wrest Park Georgians, for dressing up, talking rubbish, and keeping us laughing, despite the wind and rain.


Alison Sauer said...

Ahhhh, the re-enactment season is upon us. I shall again be an 18th century lady of questionable morals next weekend in New Brighton amongst a gaggle of pirates and an armoury of cannon. Life in a corset with gunpowder. Doesn't get much better than this!

Grit said...

yay! fantastic, alison! i am a 100% fan of the dressing up brigade. keep up the good work; you entertain us hugely!