Elevenses: Off With The Masque!
Good Morning Ladies and Gentlemen! We hope you had a deliciously delinquent festive season and are not yet ready to don the cap of contrition and sobriety because although our little dust cat friends have fled with the tinsel and the oatcakes back to their gothic island home we are none the less ready to make mischievous merriment in the aftermath of the Wizmas insanity!
You find us all about the lace and the periwinkles, all about the bombazine and the damasks, all about the masks in fact because tonight is the annual Lancastrian New Years Carnival which marks the end of the hated (a-hem, I mean beloved) Wizmas season and the beginning of our excellent Frost Fair as the weather begins to grow even colder and the River Lune threatens to freeze solid again.
Courtly Masques have been a traditional part of New Year celebrations here in The New World for centuries and the public version; The Street Pageant or Carvnival, is something that accompanies the Frost Fair here in Lancaster every year.
Some of the most outstanding lunatics, parlour-poets, tea fiends and self proclaimed ‘artists’, in the full intensity of their creative insanity, have devoted themselves to producing these Pageants (despite the earnest efforts of various New World Puritans to abolish them) and the infamous Garish Theatre producer Joyce Jameson recently proclaimed it to be “the highest art form in The Scattered Isles.”
To give the balance however we should also quote journalist Pomona Squash of the Tiffindependent Newspaper whose scathing review of last years’ revels read ” the entertainment went forward, and most of the presenters went backward, or fell down, wine did so occupy their upper chambers. The actress playing the Queen tripped over the steps of the throne, sending her gifts flying; Hope and Faith were too drunk to speak a word, while Peace, annoyed at finding her way to the throne blocked, made good use of her symbolic olive branches to slap anyone who was in her way” (click here to tut at our rampant quote theft)
But what mask to put on? Well, let us have a look at some historical masks from your own dimension for some inspiration….
Primarily a masculine mask. During the 18th century this mask and accompanying black cape were often worn at official and government events where anonymity was essential.
Historically a mask worn only by women, this one is named after the famous character from the commedia dell’arte.
The Plague Doctor
Invented by the 17th century physician Charles De Lorme, this macabre mask is a reminder that we are all participants in The Divine Comedy, our own parts decidedly finite whatever our societal status.
A short-lived mask of the early 1700s , this small strange black velvet mask was worn by women and held in place by biting on a button, which rendered the wearer unable to speak or eat while wearing it. So obviously it won’t be any good for Max… ouch! Good grief is that our best teapot? Totally un-called for!
The ghost mask, worn by both men and women, is usually all white although some are also decorated and worn with a veil, cloak or tricorn hat.
A masculine mask depicting a grotesque old man this one is said to symbolise intelligence or wisdom so, again, perhaps not an appropriate choice for … ouch! For pity’s sake Max, get a sense of humour! This is supposed to be a holiday… tsk!
Well here’s one our good friend Freddy Payne can tell us all about as he permanently wears one! The story of harlequin varies through the ages but essentially he is either a comical, foolish or romantic servant – character and a male counterpart to Columbina.
So, there you have it and that is where we abscond to this evening, to paint the town of Lancaster red and utterly get away with it because we shall be masked up and totally unrecognisable… we hope… not sure how much of a give away the tentacles will be…
We wish you all an equally jubilant evening and we will let you know how we got on on Monday so, until then, please throw on a mask be whoever the hull you wish (for one night at least!)