FLATULENCE sounds much the same in middle English, as audiences are discovering this week.
Tacit Theatre has brought their compressed version of The Canterbury Tales to the Playhouse, transferring a handful of Chaucer’s 600-year-old stories to the stage with a mix of music, mirth and mummery.
The highly-animated cast of six swap roles and genders and make the most of a clever little set which is most often the Tabard Inn – the pilgrims’ home from home in Southwark.
The songs, which are mostly traditional numbers cherry-picked from across the intervening centuries, prove to be thoroughly catchy, and are performed by the cast on a variety of instruments.
Importantly, Tom Daplyn, who plays Tabard landlord Harry Bailey and adapted the tales for the show, introduces them with sparkling passages of Chaucer’s original middle English.
Those watching, most of whom looked as though they were familiar with Chaucer from school, were reminded of the strange otherness of medieval England at the same time as appreciating the continuities of lust, greed, vanity and sheer vulgarity.
The rhythm of the show was never predictable, and Daplyn and his hard-working company are happy to embrace the more cartoony aspects of bringing Chaucer and his fart gags to the stage.
There were even a couple of naked backsides on display for a medieval miller to kiss.
Perhaps the sinister cunning of some of Chaucer’s characters never really stalks the stage, and the use of props is overly restrictive, but the verve of the cast is infectious in a show that is never windy and lasts just over two hours including the interval.