Medieval tales for open-air retelling

Canterbury Tales get an airing
Canterbury Tales get an airing
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A TALENTED troupe of thespians will work their way through 23 Canterbury Tales in just one performance.

The six actors who make up the Pantaloons will play more than 70 colourful characters in an open-air production of Chaucer’s famous work at Washington Old Hall.

The group will also perform each tale in a different theatrical style, ranging from pantomime, puppetry and masks to musicals, mime, horror and opera.

Complete with a medieval market beforehand, the audience can interact with the characters, buy their wares and even have a kiss from the Wife of Bath.

The Pantaloons have received international acclaim for their annual Shakespeare-with-a-twist productions, but are taking a break from the Bard to concentrate on Chaucer, often referred to as the father of English literature.

Mark Hayward, co-producer and co-author, said: “It’s all about being faithful to the original text whilst making it relevant to a modern audience.

“It’s a tricky line to walk but as we were translating we realised that the key things were to keep it accessible and keep it funny.

“There are several tales that are like mini-plays in themselves. Famous ones like The Miller’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale deserve a proper showing. Other stories have been condensed into sketches, songs or even limericks. Many of the lesser-known tales would be rather unpalatable to a modern audience without a good pinch of irony.”

The play follows a group of pilgrims who decide to hold a story-telling contest on the road from Southwark to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett in Canterbury.

The pilgrims are from all walks of medieval life and include a knight, a miller, a monk, a prioress, a shipman and an insatiable wife of Bath.

Unlike the pilgrims, travelling from London to Canterbury, the actors’ tour is taking them to outdoor venues all over the country, from Truro to Liverpool.

And anyone unfamiliar with middle English has no need to panic as the show has been translated into vibrant modern language.

Like Chaucer’s rude original, the show promises plenty of bawdy fun, but organisers promise the adaptation is suitable for all ages.

Twitter: @SunechoKaty