A performance bestiary

Mike Pearson*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


A Performance Bestiary by Mike Pearson surveys and examines the presence of animal and animal-like figures––both surviving and extinct––in English folk drama and related performative activities: from hobby horses to straw bears to three-legged rams. It describes their appearance; their structure and fabric; their demeanour, traits and habits; their seasonal occurrence and distribution. Its main focus is upon their behaviour––on their animation, movement and choreography––and whether, through scrutiny of play scripts, newspaper reports, eyewitness accounts and documentary photographs, it is possible to discern the antics of creatures long disappeared. It includes an extended consideration of a breed that evolved in ‘wooing’ or ‘plough plays’ in the late nineteenth century, in a particular topographic region––the area around Scunthorpe in North-West Lincolnshire. These freakish figures––created by throwing a farm horse jacket over an existing hobby horse to create a monstrous horse/horse hybrid––were given to misrule. The aim is to create a vivid impression of their horseplay and of their world: to locate them in relation to a specific habitat––to its environmental features, demography and land use; to period social conditions and pressures; and to the influence of local patronage and the expansion of the nearby industrial town.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Routledge Companion to English Folk Performance
EditorsPeter Harrop, Steve Roud
PublisherTaylor & Francis
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781000401554
ISBN (Print)9780429299063
Publication statusPublished - 13 Jul 2021


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