JEREMY Secker’s adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales was written in 1978 for The Hertfordshire Players to perform at The Minack in Cornwall. Now this delightful modern version has been chosen by Taunton Thespians for the 2017 summer tour.
Mr Secker’s version, which adheres to the verse format of the original, was created for performance by a group of amateur actors. If the rhymes are forced, it adds to the humour, and the whole thing is an accessible, hilarious romp.
Thespians’ co directors Jane Edwards and Nicola Dawson have introduced live music performed by multi-instrumentalist Gibby Swaine, enhancing the hilarity of the evening with a Keystone Cops theme played on the kazoo, The Stripper on the accordion and lots of tunes on the pipe and tabour.
The audience is treated to the Wife of Bath’s Tale, the bawdy Miller’s Tale and the nearly-as-bawdy Reeve’s Tale, all rounded off by the crowing Chanticleer in The Nun’s Priest’s Tale. Every member of the 15-strong cast has ample opportunity to demonstrate versatility, timing and delivery.
There are exceptional characterisations, from Lindsey Cran as the knowing Wife of Bath and the lusty Alison, from Rebecca Beard as a wicked Miller’s Wife, Ben Jordan (a shoe-in for a role as the younger Roger Federer) as the lovelorn Absalon and student Alan, Peter Meredith as the oafish randy knight, Natasha Carter as the dim daughter of the miller, Jack Ward as two memorably enunciated students and Michael Gilbert in a number of roles. And then there were the marvellous hens in the final playlet.
Colourful and authentic costumes and a simple set make for a visual treat, and the directors make the most of every opportunity to bring these ageless tales to a modern audience with style and wit.
Do see this production if you can. It’s the perfect way to spend an English summer evening.
The tour continues at Cleeve Abbey at Washford on Saturday 15th July. The tour resumes at Blackmore Farm in Cannington on Tuesday 18th, Wellington School on 19th, Muchelney Abbey near Langport on 20th, back to Taunton at Queen’s College on 21st and ends at Hartwood House at Crowcombe Heathfield on Saturday 22nd July. For more information, visit the website www.tauntonthespians.org.uk