A MAPPA MUNDI | THEATR MWLDAN | CREU CYMRU CO-PRODUCTION
UK TOUR Spring 2006
A long, long time ago
In a country far, far away
Six intrepid travellers embark
On a journey that will take them to their limits
A journey to Canterbury!
Mappa Mundi’s new revival of their popular sell-out show takes Geoffrey Chaucer’s classic work and stages it as a dramatic and comical entertainment, full of wit and charm. As they make their annual pilgrimage to Canterbury, a group of Welsh commoners pass the time by performing some of Chaucer’s most appealing tales, filling the stage with a blend of boisterous comedy, romance and fetching images.
The show features some of Chaucer’s best-loved stories (including The Miller’s Tale, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale and The Wife of Bath’s Tale), all set to a delightful Mappa Mundi score. Ideal for all those who enjoy earthy humour and a good story, Canterbury Tales is an enchanting, fast-paced entertainment guaranteed to put hair on your chest.
Mae adfywiad newydd Mappa Mundi o’i sioe hynod boblogaidd yn cymryd gwaith clasurol Geoffrey Chaucer a’i lwyfannu fel adloniant dramatig a digri yn llawn ffraethineb a chyfaredd. Ar eu pererindod flynyddol i Ganterbury, mae criw o werin Cymreig yn pasio’r amser yn perfformio rhai o straeon mwyaf apelgar Chaucer, yn llanw’r llwyfan gyda chymysgedd o gomedi bywiog, rhamant a delweddau deniadol. Mae’r sioe yn cynnwys rhai o straeon mwyaf hoffus Chaucer (gan gynnwys The Miller’s Tale, The Nun’s Priest’s Tale a The Wife of Bath’s Tale), ynghyd â sgôr hyfryd. Yn berffaith ar gyfer pawb sy’n mwynhau hiwmor bras a stori dda, mae Cantebury Tales yn adloniant swynol, sy’n symud yn gyflym ac sy’n siŵr o’ch cyffroi!
Canterbury Tales gave 23 performances at 18 venues in the spring of 2006, playing to a total audience of 3793.
If the Carry On team had been around during the 14th century, there is little doubt that Geoffrey Chaucer would have been writing their scripts. Here was a writer with a finger on the pulse of the common people – and this riotous co-production from Mappa Mundi, Theatr Mwldan and Creu Cymru, directed by Phylip Harries, re-interprets his most famous work for a 21st century audience.
The six-strong cast (Lee Mengo, Simon Nehan, Richard Nichols, Keiron Self, Lynne Seymour and Clêr Stephens)clearly revel in their multiple roles, throwing themselves into their performances with gusto and enjoying the chance to spread the gospel according to Chaucer in a gloriously irreverent and wholly accessible manner.
Pop culture references abounded, and if the inclusion of a Benny Hill-style chase sequence(complete with the familiar theme tune) seemed a little too obvious this was more than compensated for by a wonderful parody of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and some very smart verbal and visual gags.
As anyone who has studied Chaucer at school will know, the stories contain elements best described as bawdy, and this is reflected here in an energetic, knockabout style.
Fabulously entertaining and enlivened by a combination of cleverly designed sets, lighting effects and an original score by Peter Knight, this is a show which should hopefully attract very large audiences throughout the remainder of its tour.
Reviewed by: Graham Williams
Purists may well sneer at the notion of updating classic works in order to render them “accessible” to a 21st century audience (indeed, I have even been known to do so myself in the wake of one too many Shakespearean updates in which the cast wear camouflage trousers and combat jackets).
Some works, however, lend themselves to such treatment, and this is certainly true of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales – an unfinished series of stories best known to past generations of schoolchildren for the “rude” bits and for the coarse jokes about bodily functions which make today’s US “gross-out” movies look positively mild in comparison.
This co-production by Mappa Mundi, Theatr Mwldan and Creu Cymru – directed by Phylip Harries and adapted by Keiron Self – is an unashamedly populist, cleverly conceived and riotously funny piece of theatre in which the six-strong cast(Lee Mengo, Simon Nehan, Richard Nichols, Keiron Self, Lynne Seymour and Clêr Stephens)seem to be having as much fun as the audience as they slip in and out of their respective roles with boundless energy, charm and just the right degree of cheekiness.
While the overall “look” is indeed medieval, due in no small part to Rhiannon Brown’s costume design and Carl Davies’ set, the script is liberally sprinkled with a multitude of smart references to popular culture ranging from Paris Hilton and Katherine Jenkins right through to the TV series Taggart(“There’s been a murrrrderrrr!”) and a hilarious parody of the Gloria Gaynor anthem I Will Survive.
The inclusion of a Benny Hill chase sequence is perhaps over-egging the pudding more than a little – and on the night I attended, at least one devotee of Dylan Thomas expressed his quiet disapproval of the sequence in which the cast lampoon Under Milk Wood(actually I thought it was a hoot, but who am I to argue?).
Any production in which one is presented with a sketch about the Black Death presented in the style of Pathe News,complete with a Mr Cholmondely-Walker style voice-over(“Don’t die of ignorance!”), has got to be worth the price of admission, and this is a production well worth catching should you get the chance during the remainder of its tour. Whether or not you decide to take along your maiden aunt is, of course, entirely up to you.
The Canterbury Tales can be seen on Wednesday 5 April and Thursday 6th April at the Sherman Theatre, Carddiff, Friday April 7 at Theatr Gwynedd, Bangor(01248 351708), Theatr Ardudwy, Harlech on Saturday April 8(01766 780667), Torch Theatre, Milford Haven on Wednesday April 12(01646 695267)and Coliseum, Aberdare on Thursday April 13(01685 881188). For further details of productions at Taliesin Arts Centre contact the Box Office on 01792 602060.
Reviewed by: Graham Williams
Already the audience filling Cardigan’s Theatr Mwldan is tittering and giggling, possibly due to the fact that the actor has a donkey’s head upon his shoulders. When nothing has really happened on stage and yet you’re laughing you know you are in for a good evening.
Mappa Mundi brought their interpretation of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales to Cardigan last Friday and Saturday nights and how we did laugh. Six actors attired in richly coloured medieval robes took us on a bawdy, raucous and irreverent romp through selected Canterbury Tales directed by Phylpip Harries.
On a simply decorated stage, hung with a clever combination of medieval banner and ripped up roadmap, a versatile and hardworking cast bought Chaucer’s time tested tales to life.
They used a set and props encompassed within a tardis-like cart, a basic wooden frame on wheels which extended and retracted to become in turn a bedroom, a chicken coop, a shadow theatre and a carpenter’s shop.
All seven tales, adapted by Keiron Self, were rendered in the structure of Chaucer’s original, the rhyming couplets shot through with twentieth and twenty first century references from e-bay to bird flu, from the A team to the Carpenters.
The show started with a brief biography of the great man himself. Chaucer, portrayed by Keiron Self as a fey youth who’d rather write poetry than wrestle bears through to his career as ambassador to the English court and his death before the completion of the Canterbury Tales.
The pace was pure pantomime and the level immediately accessible, to a mock chorus of “non compos mentis” the cast transformed the set for the Reeve’s Tale. A rectangular stage block on casters becoming a punt for two camp students to wend their way downriver to con the violently trumping Windy Miller and sleep with his wife and daughter.
“I’ll ruffle the feathers round your tight parson’s nose!”
The conclusion of the Tale was followed by a manic, gospel preaching, musical interlude incorporating well-choreographed dance routines and reminiscent of an over hyped madcap version of the musical Godspell.
Thence followed the Pardoner’s Tale, the menacing story of avarice and double dealing presided over by the physical presence of death on the stage. Providing a dark contrast to the smutty and scatological nature of the preceding tale and the madcap energy of the musical interlude.
A highland fling saw the stage transformed into a chicken coop for three fussy Scottish chickens all clutching their handbags and bobbing their heads, who acted out the Nun’s Priest Tale in broad Scottish accents. Their rampant cock had one of my favourite lines in the play, proclaiming pre-coitally: “I’ll ruffle the feathers round your tight parson’s nose” before taking his lady hen!
After the interval we were treated to a version of Chaucer’s own Canterbury Tale, that is the story of Sir Topaz told by the character of Chaucer within the Canterbury Tales. The was presented as a piece of shadow puppetry, the narrative sung and offset by a shrieking Monty Python-esque chorus.
The Wife of Bath followed telling her tale in a convincing Bath burr and a broad brimmed hat and changing easily between protagonist and narrator.
The Second Nun’s Priest Tale deflated the second half somewhat for me. An overlong musical interpretation of the story of Saint Cecilia who refused to be martyred despite being boiled alive in her own bathhouse and being decapitated.
Suitably enough it began with a version of Gloria Gaynor’s I Will Survive and then segued into a slower number I didn’t recognise, rewritten as Punch Me in the Morning. There is only so much humour you can get out of torture especially in the context of last week’s news stories about Iraqi prisoners. It didn’t feel funny just uncomfortable.
Windy Miller and his lovely girls
The humour value of the second half redeemed itself with the Miller’s tale, told in over-inflated mock Dylan Thomas verse and set in a “blackety black” town with an unpronounceable name. Cleverly intertwined, Thomas’ Reverend Eli Jenkins became Absalom Chaucer’s parish clerk besotted with a young Welsh slapper in a tale of drugs, bed hopping, cuckoldry and of course farting.
Mappa Mundi’s Canterbury Tales were irreverent, inventive, downright random at times and full of manic energy, delivered by six actors switching easily between character, accent and mood and all working equally hard.
I must admit to not having picked up Chaucer since the National Curriculum dictated that I must back in the hazy days of A-levels. This all singing, all dancing, pacey, salacious and scatological rendering proved a perfect reintroduction. Fourteen years later after my initial encounter I’m digging out my Chaucer from the dusty depths of my bookshelf.
Though you’ve missed them in Cardigan the Canterbury Tales, a joint project between Creu Cymru, Mappa Mundi and Theatr Mwldan, are now making their very own pilgrimage through Wales. They are coming to Milford Haven’s Torch Theatre on April 12th. See below for the complete tour dates.
Reviewed by: pembrokshiretv web site
17 Theatr Mwldan CARDIGAN/ABERTEIFI
18 Theatr Mwldan CARDIGAN/ABERTEIFI
1 The Courtyard HEREFORD
3 Canolfan y Celfyddydau Sain Dunwyd St. Donats Arts Centre LLANTWIT MAJOR / LLANILLTUD FAWR
4 Borough Theatre ABERGAVENNY / Y FENNI
8 Theatr Stiwt RHOSLLANERCHRUGOG
11 Canolfan y Celfyddydau ABERYSTWYTH Arts Centre
17 Welfare YSTRADGYNLAIS
18 Wyeside Arts Centre BUILTH WELLS / LLANFAIR YM MUALLT
23 The Grand Pavilion PORTHCAWL Pafiliwn y Grand
24 BLACKWOOD Miners Institute
25 Theatr Hafren NEWTOWN/DRENEWYDD
29 Theatr Brycheiniog BRECON/ABERHONDDU
30 Taliesin Arts Centre Canolfan y Celfyddydau Taliesin SWANSEA / ABERTAWE
31 Taliesin Arts Centre Canolfan y Celfyddydau Taliesin SWANSEA / ABERTAWE
1 Assembly Rooms LUDLOW
4 Theatr y Sherman Theatre CARDIFF/CAERDYDD
5 Theatr y Sherman Theatre CARDIFF/CAERDYDD
6 Theatr Gwynedd BANGOR
7 Theatr Gwynedd BANGOR
8 Theatr Ardudwy HARLECH
12 Torch Theatre MILFORD HAVEN / ABERDAUGLEDDAU
13 Coliseum ABERDARE/ABERDÂR
Cast / Y Gast
Creative Team / Y Tim Creadigol
Simon Gough and Brenda Knight