Adaptation of 'The Maid of Buttermere' puts wrestling centre stage in Keswick

( CLICK on thumbnail to see a larger picture - CLICK anywhere EXCEPT on the larger image to return to this page)

Wrestling is centre stage every night in Keswick these days, literally. Melvyn Bragg's novel 'The Maid of Buttermere' adapted for the stage by Lisa Evans, has a scene of Cumberland and Westmorland Wrestling. I have been aware of this for some time as enquiries were made for wrestlers to come forward as part of the amateur support for the professional core of actors. As far as I know, none did, but wrestling nevertheless is still part of the action.

Next contact, by telephone then email, came from Kate Waters, also known as 'Kombat Kate', who had the task of choreographing the action. She has a background of Judo, but was faced with the problem of finding the right touch in bringing our traditional wrestling to its home area: 'I have managed to find out about the hold & the rules, but I am struggling to find any live footage, which will obviously help me.  Do you have anything I may have a look at before I come up to Keswick at the end of this month? As I explained on the phone, I want to respect the sport & be as authentic as possible, but at the same time I have to make it look theatrical & tell the story. I also have to make it safe, so the actors feel comfortable performing it 8 times a week.'

The wrestling rules are notoriously lacking in describing what happens in a bout. They concentrate on providing the limits for the action: what not to do, rather than how to do it. Also lacking is some easily accessible film of wrestling, but I gave her some pointers. I also suggested that a night at Carlisle Wrestling Club would answer all her questions, but based in the South as she is, and with only limited time in Keswick, that was not possible. The need for authenticity is highlighted by a stage direction for the play. A wrestler is thrown 'and counted out'. Not in Cumbria they're not.

Next contact came from the referee of the staged wrestling. Frank Cosgrove of Caldbeck, a keen amateur actor and producer, and a friend of mine, is one of the group of locals enlisted for the crowd scenes. 'Roger, what do I have to say?' Nowadays, the answer is easy, for the referee has a form of words to say at the beginning of each bout: 'On your guard..Wrestle!', but what would be said in 1802? The best I could come up with was 'Tek hod' at the beginning and then 'Both hold' when the two wrestlers got to grips.

So, what was the result of all this? Some friends who watch a lot of wrestling attended the first night and approved of the wrestling scene. My wife and I have tickets for next week, so I will be able to see for myself. I may even enjoy the rest of the play.

The European Championships at East Kilbride are only a month away and our team has yet to be finalised. The wrestlers are in heavy training, but circumstances have prevented any wrestle-offs to sort out final selection. For some slots there is only a single suitable wrestler, but for the weights above 74kg there are several options. Richard Fox and David Atkinson will be vying for the 81kg slot, and there will be competition at the heavier end between the likes off Joseph Robson, Jason Davidson, and some of the young Rothbury wrestlers. The hopes of the team have been given a boost by the news that Richard Younger is in training and keen to compete.Richard Younger receiving a cup from Peter Hunter

For some time we thought that there was no genuine big heavyweight at over 100kg (15st 10lb). Younger who plays rugby and fills a doorway in the Bigg Market, Newcastle at a week-end, is massively powerful and skilled with it.

Any wrestling event wishing to stage a championship in 2009, should have a request in writing to the CWWA Secretary, Alf Harrington in the next few days.


Saturday, 28th March -Waberthwaite Academy Open Night 7.30pm in the Village Hall. Open Competitions:

Written by © Roger Robson. Photographs by © Roger Robson, Julian Richardson or Linda Scott (February 10th 2011)

Disclaimer ©2008 Webmaster