Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
Adaptation: Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo
Reviewer: Lauren Humphreys
The cast explode onto the stage in a glorious burst of energy and colour and maintain their focus and physicality throughout this re-telling of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale relocated to modern day Nigeria. All the familiar elements are here: the cuckolded husband and the unfaithful young wife but thrown into the mix are superstition, witchcraft and the class divide.
Writer Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo cleverly employs the Nigerian folk tradition of storytelling through music, dance, drums and most of all gossip. The small cast of six are commanding, their use of movement and voice keep the audience engaged throughout, but the biggest delight here is hearing the richness and lyricism of the Pidgin English, spoken by the supposedly uneducated, juxtaposed with the Queen’s English spoken by the elite. This is best heard from the characters Rabiu and Julie, two loyal servants thrown together by a mutual hatred of their jobs, whose incessant gossip, provides a clever device through which we are able to find out background information and off-stage events as well as providing moments of linguistic comedy.
The central narrative is a little over-long but that said, the piece could have expanded some interesting details it only touches on: how are a population expected to prosper in a country that doesn’t have constant electricity; the still great influences of the church and superstition in daily life and the parallels between Chaucer’s use of language, contentious in his time, and the current controversy between Pidgin and Queen’s English in Nigeria.
The sheer warmth and exuberance and the naturalism of this slice of African drama is a joy, and it provides a rare opportunity to see a performance style in direct contrast to the British theatre tradition of which there’s so much at the Fringe.
Runs until 27th August