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Theatre review: The Canterbury Tales 
16th-Dec-2011 10:57 pm
Amphithavatar
Though not officially Christmassy there's certainly the air of a festive show to Southwark Playhouse's adaptation of Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales. The main house has had a bar added to it to create the Tabard Inn (designed by Cara Newman) where the stories are told. On a round central stage each of the 7 actors is technically playing one of the famous narrators (The Knight, The Friar, landlord Harry Bailey [John Canmore]) but mostly act out the stories that Tom Daplyn and Tacit Theatre have adapted for the stage (with mercifully little Middle English remaining.) Many of the stories are pretty bawdy which suits Juliane von Sivers' frenetic production. Though I did like how they kept Chaucer's attempt to have his cake and eat it, by following tales of farts, fucking and fisticuffs with a po-faced request that they have something nice and moral next.

I have to admit a slight bias as I went to University with Rosalind Blessed, who plays the Wife of Bath, and it was nice to quickly catch up with her in the bar afterwards, she looks exactly the same¹. But it does mean my personal highlight of the show itself ended up being her doing an actual double-take when she spotted me in the audience.².

The audience are actively encouraged to refill their tankards at the bar so with a fair bit of moving around and clattering going on clarity of storytelling isn't the primary concern, but the show makes up for it in mayhem and is probably even more fun if you've had a drink (though crucially, you don't need to drink to enjoy it.) The tales are interspersed with bawdy songs and as well as the actors playing instruments there's also a joy in seeing them used as props in the storytelling (violin bows as swords, for instance.)

The Canterbury Tales by Geoffrey Chaucer, adapted by Tom Daplyn and Tacit Theatre is booking until the 7th of January at Southwark Playhouse.

¹as of course she should because VIRTUALLY NO TIME HAS PASSED SINCE WE WERE AT UNIVERSITY AND WE ARE DEFINITELY YOUNG

²apart from anything else, it's nice to have a reaction from someone I knew at University that doesn't involve horror and an attempt to run away. For a change.
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