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The Miller's Tale: Wahala Dey Oh!
Published on Saturday, 25 August 2012
4

4 stars

C venues - C (venue website)
Theatre
1, 3-27 Aug, 1:15pm-2:25pm
Reviewed by Jane Bristow

 Parents or guardians should consider the content of this show if children are attending.

Chaucer’s bawdy Canterbury Tales are famous for showing that 14th century people were essentially the same as 21st century people. So I was interested when I saw that Overo, a Nigerian company, were performing an updated production which had been relocated to modern day Nigeria. The change in time and place worked very well and The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey Oh! certainly captured the lively spirit of the original. This is an energetic and faithful reworking, that thoroughly entertained me.

As far as the Canterbury Tales go, The Miller’s Tale is one of the more earthy stories, as told by the drunk miller to a group of people who are on their way to a religious retreat – rather than a pilgrimage – and are trying to impress the retreat’s owner to win a free stay. The tale that he tells involves the time-old story of the young and very attractive wife of an old carpenter, who is able to outwit her husband – hence ‘wahala’, which is explained as meaning trouble. Not surprisingly she plots with her lover, a student, how she can trick her husband into giving them time alone. Meanwhile another student also declares his love for her and the plot becomes a farce.

There’s an effort to emphasise the modern setting, with references to The Lord of the Rings and an attempt at moon-walking. I particularly enjoyed the moment when one of the students tried to serenade the miller’s wife by rapping outside her window, and got the audience to provide a beat.

Inevitably, modernising the language does lose the poetic aspects of the original writing, but then again made it more accessible to a wider audience – and the slapstick comedy definitely ensured that not too much was lost from Chaucer’s version. It could have been slightly shorter, as I found my attention wandering by the end. In part, I think, that’s because the sparse stage could have been used more imaginatively to evoke Nigeria, although the costumes were excellent.

It’s not particularly deep and meaningful then, but it’s a wonderfully raucous production. The singing alone was beautiful and they kept it true to Chaucer as much as possible, even if some may dislike the reworking of the dialogue. It was energetic, funny, and above all showed that human humour doesn’t really change much – regardless of the country or the time period we live in.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Edinburgh 2012.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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