Pros: Funny, easy to follow, and potentially the best storytelling in London.
Cons: If you are bringing a large group of kids, arrive early as there are no assigned seats.
The idea of Chaucer for children had me a little worried. I love The Canterbury Tales, but they are often complex to understand, especially given the vast and varied subject matter. When it comes to this production, I really didn’t need to worry – it’s an outstanding and easy to follow interpretation which is brought to life delightfully by Tangere Arts.
The venue is lovely. There’s a nice little bar downstairs with lots of cakes and cookies. The seating is comfortable and set up in an amphitheatre style, which allows for great views all around and the sounds carry wonderfully. It is let down, however, by the ticketing situation, which lacks a bit of order and reason. There are no assigned seats, and with a theatre filled with children on school trips, the anxiety when their guardians see the seating situation is noticeable.
Once we settle in and get under way, any concerns about seating instantly dissipate. Gary Lagden is an outstanding storyteller, and we are suddenly transported to a musical medieval world through a swirling haze of incense as we learn about the dangers of greed.
Lagden is one of only three people on stage, and the only one who speaks. Through a range of different voices and facial expressions he acts out all the necessary characters in the tale. Using two multi-talented musicians, wonderful lighting and sound effects, the story of Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale is beautifully woven around us, and brought to life right in front of our eyes.
It’s funny, and Lagden is a riotous, jovial and likeable lead. He’s captivating of the attentions of all the vast age ranges in the audience. The use of shadow puppets further enhances the show, and look out for the occasional (and delightful) surprises from above.
Funny as it is, it’s also very educational. There’s a section entirely devoted to subtly explaining the art of theatre and storytelling, and how moods and characters, days and nights, and warm and cold can all change owing to voice, positioning and subtle effects. The sound effects portion of this is absolutely wonderful for both kids and adults – especially the sword fight (listen for the melon!).
Everything about this play is equally accessible to adults and children. The jokes are humorous to both and there are, of course, some references only the adults will catch. But there is so much wonder here for kids to enjoy. There’s enough interaction and eye-catching material to keep them interested and it is an easily followed interpretation of the story. The length of the play – a sensible 50 minutes – is just enough time to keep the younger kids engaged and not restless.
It’s a great show, and provided you arrive in your selected seats as early as you can, it’s an evening all ages are sure to enjoy. It’s magical, wonderful, smart and, very importantly, there’s an easy to understand moral at the end, as well as a pardon for everyone.
Original Author: Geoffrey Chaucer
Adapted by: Lewis Gibson
Director and Composer: Lewis Gibson
Producer: Unicorn Theatre and Tangere Arts
Booking Until: 31st January 2014
Box Office: 0207 645 0560
Booking Link: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/the-pardoners-tale