In this musical adaptation of the Canterbury Tales, a family go on a pilgrimage with Father Geoffrey in order to restore their unity after months of tiresome quarrelling. On their journey, they tell, sing and enact four of Chaucer’s tales about the importance of family ties, at last learning a lesson about forgiveness and understanding.
London-based company N10 offers a fresh take on this masterpiece of English literature by turning some of it into song, with a delightful singer-songwriter feel. Although the transition from acting to singing isn’t always smooth, singing allows the telling of five stories (four from the Tales plus one about the protagonist family, which frames all the other tales) in a short time-span without feeling rushed.
This show is an ambitious project that combines theatre and storytelling with dance, physical theatre and live music. The unfolding of the narrative is signalled by a crafty book-like backdrop with turning pages, a number of props and costume changes, and carefully orchestrated and executed choreography. Considering the limited space and time given to the performers, they do a rather impressive job. However, one feels that more time could have been spent on perfecting the actors’ performances, and even though their talent is evident, the show might benefit by fewer scene changes and more focus on the delivery. Even though the show can be equally enjoyed by equally Canterbury Tales’ aficionados and those less familiar with the Tales, at times the narrative lacks coherence and is quite confusing, leaving the audience wondering which characters are being discussed and who is playing whom.
However, the cast works extremely well together, and they seem to have spent a long time practising how to balance each others’ weaknesses and strengths. All the actors seem very young, and if Chaucer: Hold Up Your Tale, is at the beginning of their careers, they are probably going on to become rather brilliant performers.