Mike Poulton’s verse adaptation makes Chaucer’s Tales sound modern, lively and muscular, without losing the flavour (or the filth) of the original, and Humdrum’s large ensemble give a fair account of it.
As the director James George says, all human life is here – the bouncy Wife of Bath, who wants nothing more than another man in her bed (beautifully played by Jeanette Broad); the decidedly camp Pardoner (Sam Sampson); a genial Host, prim nuns, and, amongst many others, our poet, Chaucer, played with welcoming warmth by Mike Palmer.
The Merchant’s Tale of the marriage of January and May was particularly well told, giving full rein to the bawdiness (saucy doings up a pear-tree), and provided a nice contrast with the more solemn tales.
The Pardoner’s tale is the darkest, telling of greed, betrayal and murder, and this could perhaps been given a more sinister edge to vary the texture further.
The cast kept the evening rolling along, and although at times a little too evenly paced, they did justice to these enduring tales of English life.