The Mare’s Tale

(2012) 7’
for actor & ensemble


clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, trombone, percussion, violin, viola, double bass


The Mare's Tale is a work for actor and ensemble inspired by a series of drawings by Clive Hicks-Jenkins on the theme of the Mari Lwyd.

One of the oldest Welsh midwinter traditions, the Mari Lwyd (Grey Mare) embodied pagan beliefs in the cult of the horse. Essentially a type of puppet made from a horse’s skull nailed atop a pole and draped in a sheet, the Mari turned out with groups of night-time mummers at the turn of the year. The score features dark variations on a traditional Welsh Mari Lwyd ballad sung by revellers demanding entrance to homes along their route. The work

The action, set in London and Wales in 1940, centres on Morgan Seyes, a retired architect. We meet him standing on the front door step of his London home looking back over the forty years he and his wife, Jane, have lived there. War is raging. Jane is ill. Morgan hopes moving back to the small Welsh village where he grew up might help Jane heal. With a heavy heart, Jane locks up their London house for the last time. Autumn turns to winter. Unable to accept Jane’s deteriorating health, Morgan’s mind deteriorates. One evening, Bill Davies, landlord of The Mare, shows Morgan the old pub sign his wife, Lucy, recently recovered. Through the flaking paint Morgan detects a pale, disquieting form. Spring arrives. All the villagers are invited to celebrate the unveiling of the newly painted sign of the Mari Lwyd. The image awakens in Morgan a deeply repressed trauma. He is six years old again on New Year’s Eve, terror-struck as he watches his father lift the latch to let the Mari Lwyd in.

Damian Walford Davies and Mark Bowden were commissioned to write the words and music while Clive Hicks-Jenkins created the design for the piece. In the preview at Theatr Brycheiniog in September 2013, all six speaking characters were played by Eric Roberts with a set suggesting both the different locations and Morgan's mental vulnerability. Jane and various manifestations of the 'night mare' were embodied by puppets. Live and pre-filmed sequences conjuring the passage of time and apparitions rising from Morgan's past were streamed to a projection-screen above the on-stage orchestra.

Further information

Images from the work-in-progress performance