Morris: A Life With Bells On Green Carpet Premiere Report

September 28, 2009 by  
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Those who regularly frequent the streets of Soho will have seen every irregular costume going in their time.

But even the most flamboyant patrons of the West End might have raised an eyebrow when a group of Morris Dancers jangled into town.

It has taken several months to get Morris: A Life With Bells On to a central London premiere and on their big night, the promoters didn’t miss their chance to bring a memorable slice of the country to the middle of the city.

This was a great night for director Lucy Akhurst and her hubby and leading star Charles Thomas-Oldham, as they watched their creation finally make it to the big screen.

But both admitted that it could not have been done without support from several Morris groups across the country who heralded the film after limited showings at country fetes, and lobbied for a mainstream release.

“We were blown away by the reception we received around Britain. People were saying to us ‘everyone should have a chance to see this!” said Thomas-Oldham, who also helped write the screenplay. “I grew up with Morris dancing, it’s in my DNA, so this is a great moment”, he added, consigning his street-cred to the compost heap.

“We want to take the film to the states and introduce Morris Dancing to the world,” explained his wife ambitiously.

Maybe no-one has told them that the pastime is still maligned by many in this country, let alone others – but I did meet one Chinese man who was very enamoured with the prancing performers.

In all honesty it was difficult for the creators to get a word in edgeways over the din created by the team of Morris members performing on the specially designed green carpet. Grabbing the attention of British cinemas finest is not easy at the best of times, but trying to catch a few lines with a couple of accordions and hundreds of bells making a racket is even more challenging.

But it certainly provided a memorable entrance for a film which hopes to raise the profile of a venerable art which has previously raised little more than chuckles.

The film, which opened at the weekend, tells the story of an avant-garde Morris team in their struggle to push the boundaries of the venerable and ancient dance.

Described by its promoters as a cross between This Is Spinal Tap and Calendar Girls, the docu-comedy suggests that Morris is not just an innocent pub pastime involving hanky-waving, but also a politics-laden, ultra-competitive tussle with rival stick wavers.

Whether it will spark a run on clogs and trouser bells remains to be seen, but Derek Jacobi – who has a non-dancing role in the film – told OTB that he hoped the ‘quintessentially English’ hobby would be boosted by the national release: “People always smile when you say Morris Dancing, sometimes maliciously but often with great affection.”

Sean Marland

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