As the audience enters the theatre, we are greeted by the enthusiastic performers who tell us that they want to make friends. They sit next to audience members and get incredibly familiar, yet their engaging personalities remove any discomfort from the situation. The cast from the Strung Up Theatre company are all smiles and cheers as they take to the stage to begin the performance.
Chaucer All Strung Up combines circus performance, storytelling, drama, music and puppetry, with each cast member bringing their own style and attitude to the piece. We begin with the performers in control of two miniature puppets that represent two naive children who want to run away to the circus. The story continues to be a take on Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, however Strung Up put their own mark on the familiar story through their use of circus performance.
The puppets are soon abandoned and we are in the present day, in the company of the Franklin Circus and their talented performers. As the story continues the cast paint a vivid picture of forlorn love and emotional turmoil and this sentiment is presented through circus acts that leave the audience gasping in amazement and applauding in delight. The audience supported the troupe every step of the way as the feats and tumbles embody the characters’ confusion, despair and ultimately their triumphs.
It is difficult to criticise such a well performed piece of physical theatre, however the puppets are definitely underused - only appearing at the beginning of the story. The conclusion feels unsatisfying and a return to the puppet fantasy of the first few minutes would have reminded the audience of the earlier magic. It could be said that Strung Up Theatre try to fit too much into the hour and ten minute time slot with so many elements of expressive theatre on show. Nevertheless, the performers personalities engage the audience and make The Franklin's Tale a joy to behold.