I have never read or seen The Canterbury Tales, although I was kind of familiar with the concept and a couple of the tales. I had also never been to Southwark Playhouse before, which was rather remiss of me, but i happen to be going again tomorrow to see Howl’s Moving Castle – which should be fab!
The Canterbury Tales was actually perfect for the festive season! The space was set up to resemble an old English tavern, and we were encouraged to buy drinks at the bar, served in proper pewter tankards – ale, water or (in our case) mulled wine. Introductions were made by Chaucer’s innkeeper, Harry Bailey, who started proceedings worryingly in proper old English. I could see everyone looking at each other as the words washed over them, with no understanding following. i didn’t dare look at my mate as it had been my choice to go and I thought he would never forgive me. However, he soon switched to ‘modern’ English (apart from to introduce each tale – which became extremely hypnotic and fitting) , and introduced the troupe, who were all fantastic.
The tales (and the players) were loud, bawdy, funny and brilliantly acted out. And the plays were interspersed with old English folk songs, accompanied by instruments well-played by the troupe (violin, cello, lute, guitar, cymbals etc) – some of them slightly lewd (like The Cuckoo’s Nest). We were treated to tales of love triangles, demons, vanity, greed and chickens! We witnessed knight’s fighting (all be it with violin bows), poisoning, naked arses (male AND female) and a good dose of raunch!
It was an absolutely brilliant evening – hugely enjoyable, and totally feel good!