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Home arrow Archive: EdFringe 2013 arrow Chaucer All Strung Up (The Franklin's Tale)
Chaucer All Strung Up (The Franklin's Tale)
Published on Friday, 09 August 2013

4 stars

C venues - C nova (venue website)
Dance and Physical Theatre
31 Jul, 1-11, 13-26 Aug, 2:00pm-3:10pm
Reviewed by Jane Bristow

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

Performed by Strung Up Theatre, a new company based in Cambridge, I was intrigued by a show that promised both fourteenth-century literature and aerial acrobats. Still, I was surprised by what turned out to be a lively, thoroughly engaging and frequently surreal adaption of one of Chaucer’s less famous Canterbury Tales.

The play succeeds in updating the story and setting it in a circus, a twist which works surprisingly well. The main character, a young girl called Dorigen, dreams of running away to become a ‘tight rope dancer’, and persuades her friend Ray to come with her. On the way he gets left behind, whereas she persuades Franklin’s Circus to let her perform for them – albeit in the less exalted role of a belly dancer.  So far it’s all pretty different from Chaucer, but here’s where The Franklin’s Tale comes in: Dorigen falls in love with Gus the trapeze artist, who unfortunately must leave her to hone his circus skills, and she is left hoping for his speedy return.

Meanwhile Ray, who by now is an actuary, is reunited with his childhood sweetheart Dorigen and decides to try to win her back. Part of his plan involves attempting to learn aerial silk skills from a particularly mad individual, which adds lots of humour to the play. From this conceit they really do manage to weave some impressive technical elements into the plot.  There’s also a thoroughly enjoyable amount of audience participation; from the usual initial awkwardness they managed to coax bizarre noises and even kisses, all of which was clearly appreciated by people of all age ranges.

Evidently this is not a production for Chaucer purists, and not much original language was used, but Chaucer All Strung Up worked well as an introduction to one of Britain’s great writers. It also managed to capture the mood of carnival found in The Canterbury Tales. The poster is slightly misleading – there’s not quite as much aerial work as I was expecting, which was a shame, because when it was used it worked well. At the same time though, I wasn’t expecting it to be half as fun as the whole show turned out to be.

By the end of this romp through Chaucer I felt utterly charmed and entertained by the at-times-mad production, and would definitely recommend it as fun to be enjoyed by all ages. This was an impressive and innovative Edinburgh debut.  I look forward to seeing more from Strung Up Theatre in the future, albeit from the safety of the second row.

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