The Chester music theatre in Boughton was the venue for the popular and long standing Town Crier David Mitchell’s one man show. The event was well attended and I could spot representatives from @Chesterculture, Chester civil war tours and 2 members of Cwac in the audience. Setting the scene was music from Bob Dylan with “Baby stop crying” as I admired the set, created by Julie Mitchell, David’s wife (who also makes his costime) complete with stocks and an evocation of Chester’s Tudor architecture.
Opening the show with the well used joke about watching W(h)ales, David was soon reminiscing fondly about encounters with American tourists and his enjoyment of his unique role. His affection for the city was clear, as he described comical conversations about the quickest route to walk around the walls and his close friend pretending to be his twin brother. David skilfully combined facts and historical research with the anecdotes, who knew that a crier’s bell holder was known as a “Baldrick”? David also described the historic role of the night bellman in the 17th century with hourly proclamations that “all is well” The day bell man then emerged as a way of spreading local news before the media developed. One example recited by David was the proclamation, following the great fire of London was that all the roofs of buildings in the historic core be “re roofed with slate and tile.” With a few words David evoked Chester of the past , the High Cross with the pillory, whipping posts, and Sedan chairs waiting for fares like taxis. The first half ended with an unlucky member of the audience being locked in the stocks as mock punishment.
The second half took us back to the modern day , with tales of a marriage proposal at the Cross, and musings on the location of Lakeland plastics, and coffee bar/bookshop crawls. David spoke about his involvement in the annual town crier tournament ( 4 times runner up) with one of his fellow Criers sitting in the front row of the audience. A lengthy anecdote covered David’s involvement in the Granada TV series Moll Flanders (featuring an early role from Daniel Craig). From the call from the casting agent, to filming in a disused sports centre in Warrington to an eventual 15 second appearance (from 3 days filming) to the joy of a repeat fee pay cheque, David illustrated the story with great wit. Some more history followed, with David’s research into town crying coming to the fore again..”from our colonies in America, news has just reached us…” he “cried”. Topping off the show was the tale about an eventful appearance at a wedding , on horseback.
“For crying out loud” was very entertaining, certainly kept me off twitter for 90 minutes and David showed great warmth and affection for Chester. As a leading ambassador for the city, in his interactions with tourists, the city’s life blood, I salute him!
“God save the Queen!”