Nothing gets me hungrier than humiliation. So given my on-stage performance with the Swordsmen, I was starving. Melody and I strolled through the dirt roads of Bristol, laughing both at me and our luck in being able to participate in the show. It was a short walk from the Cheshire Chase Action Stage to The Maiden Voyage eatery, near The Globe Stage. Not often in Renaissance England, I seized the opportunity to order a rare delicacy: Fish & Chips, served with a side of onion rings.
Right as we were finishing our mighty feast, we heard the trumpets blare in royal fanfare. Guards called out, marching forward to make way for the Queen, their clinking armor the only authority they needed to command the crowds. What proceeded was a long procession, a grand parade of royal pomp. Standard bearers marched on the flanks of the trumpets and drums, columns of knights stared ahead, scanning the crowd with their peripheral vision. It took almost two minutes for the Queen to finally appear on horseback, her personal guard mounted on the horse in front of her, and her handmaidens at her side. In that moment, it all came together and became so real. I was just another commoner, standing amidst a crowd of other common-folk, lucky enough to be graced by the presence of the Queen herself. It was these moments that always made the trip to Bristol worthwhile, and my $20 admission ticket priceless.
As Lady Ettie sauntered after the Queen, marking the parade’s end, Melody and I sought out the Midsummer Stage in pursuit of my arch-nemesis: a magician named Ivanovitch. You see, Ivanovitch is a very powerful, and very famous, magician of 37 years, and a member of the Academy of Magical Arts. Last year, when I first attended his show, I had been volunteered (again, by Melody) to participate in his act. And when he asked me to think of a number, any number, I quickly announced my choice out-loud before he could add not to. But this year I was determined to redeem myself. We arrived right as the show was beginning and found seats in the second row. Ivanovich introduced himself to us, and already I was enchanted. Though his show had outwitted me only a year ago, I could not help but laugh with each joke, and gaze in amazement at each trick. As the act neared its end, it was finally time. Whatever trick Ivanovich had up his sleeve, I was ready to volunteer. He only managed to declare; “I need someone to…”; before my hand shot up. He chuckled himself into a smile and pointed at me has he finished his sentence; “…give me twenty dollars”. Again, I had been bested by my own eagerness. Bound by my raised hand, I handed Ivanovich one crisp twenty-dollar bill. And what I saw after that not only amazed me, but was worth every penny. I would love nothing more than to share, in detail, the mind-bending magic I witnessed Ivanovich perform that day, but I would be doing a disservice not only to the magician and his craft, but to anyone who might one day go to see his show. Which, by the way, I highly recommend.
Our next stop was one of our favorites: The Mud Show. The Mud Show is a show quite unlike any other. People the world over know it as “The greatest show in earth”, and I can assure you that it most certainly is.
As we took our seats in the audience, I realized I recognized two of the ‘Mud Brothers’ as the same from last year. I was immediately excited by this, because if this show was anything like last year’s, I was in for a treat. The show began and we were greeted by our hosts, the Sturdy Beggars: Billy Billy VonBilly, Privey LaPew, and Big Harry Lumpyn. Billy was my personal favorite, his improv and impressive vocal range forcing me to bellow laughter with every punchline. And personally, that’s why I always see the Mud Show. Sure, there’s grown men eating mud, grown men insulting each other, and plenty of mud-filled audience participation (which I have surprisingly managed to avoid), but my favorite part is the humor, the improvised personal jabs at both the audience and the other Mud Brothers. No matter what happens at the Mud Show, from the absolutely absurd to the muddily mundane, it’s the off-the-cuff jokes and “professional” experience with mud and each other that allows the Sturdy Beggars to keep the audience thoroughly entertained for the entire show. It’s also what guarantees that no two shows are quite alike. If you ever find yourself with the opportunity to attend the Mud Show, I would suggest making it a priority. You will not be disappointed.
As the Mud Show concluded, so too did our first day at the Bristol Renaissance Faire. Though I had managed to make it through the day with my dignity and pride intact (mostly, at least), I had another day of Renaissance fun ahead of me.