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The Canterbury Tales – Exeter Northcott Theatre

Writer: Tom Daplyn &Tacit Theatre (adapted from the original by Geoffrey Chaucer)

Music &Lyrics: Anthony Sebastian and Annabelle Brown

Director: Anthony Sebastian

Reviewer: Joan Phillips


Go to the Exeter Northcott Theatre for a rollicking evening of bawdy tales, lusty stories, live folk music and a sing-a-long included.

Tacit Theatre’s adaptation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales has the audience buzzing before people have even taken their seats and the doors close. Performers are roaming the theatre mingling with the audience as if we are all just part of the crowd drinking at the same Tabard Inn. At the same time the rest of the cast are at the bar singing songs, playing instruments and settling down for an evening of sharing stories and spinning yarns.

Adapted by Tom Daplyn and Tacit Theatre, this production of The Canterbury Tales only covers a few of the tales but in all else it keeps everything of the original. It is vulgar, filthy, coarse, risqué, witty, hilarious and satirical just as Chaucer intended it to be. Even the original 14th century Middle English language is retained – but thankfully only briefly at the beginning of each tale.

A cast of six take on all the parts, between them swapping clothes, genders, voices or instruments to change instantaneously into friars, maidens, knights, millers and more – and back again – whatever each story requires. John Canmore, as the landlord, effortlessly introduces each story in Middle English superbly as if it were his first language. This works very effectively as a linking device for each of the vignettes on stage but also acts as an anchor to the early roots of these tales.

Rosalind Blessed, Tim Gutteridge, Joel Mellinger, Ellie Moore and Matt Salisbury form the rest of the cast and all deserve mention for the great range of skills and versatility they deployed in this production. Instruments, singing, drinking, friars, knights, farts, murder, rape, chivalry and playing chickens – there seems to be nothing they can’t do. All are tremendous.

The audience are captivated by the stories and the atmosphere just as if we had been sitting in the Tabard Inn in medieval times. Don’t be put off by any preconceptions about the difficulty of Chaucer’s language or remoteness of medieval culture. Tacit Theatre’s version has removed all these problems. This production reminds us how little entertainment has changed in 700 years. All we need is a few cracking good stories, performed well with humour and mischief in a great atmosphere and a good evening is guaranteed.

Runs until 6th December 2012.

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