A group of pilgrims encounter sword fights, chase scenes and a medieval tournament in Gryphon’s comedy, Some Canterbury Tales.
The play includes six of Chaucer’s most popular tales, set at the end of the 14th century. Two-metre tall hobby horses are the transport of choice for the characters, who take turns telling tales on a pilgrimage walk to the shrine of Thomas a’Beckett at Canterbury Cathedral.
The play is a test for the actors, who had to change character to act out each of the tales, director Ross Miller of Mana said. ‘‘The cast has each had to develop four or five different accents, and learn to behave as chickens, kings and queens, yokels, servants, tradesmen, knights and ladies,’’ he said.
After each tale, the actors return to their central characters, which include a knight, a nun, a franklin (landowner), a miller, a pardoner (seller of religious favours), the five-time married Wife Of Bath, a publican and two barmaids. ‘‘It’s actually quite hectic,’’ Miller said. ‘‘To put this amount of effort into it, you have to enjoy it.’’
Waikanae actor Colin Eade plays the ‘‘drunken, noisy and rude’’ Miller in the Wellington Repertory production.
He originally heard the play in 1964 when a flatmate studying English literature read it out in the early hours of the morning, leaving ‘‘a lasting impression’’.
It has been a busy year for Eade, who performed in Gilbert and Sullivan’s Gypsy Baron, followed by a role in New Zealand Opera’s The Flying Dutchman.
The transition from German opera to ancient English was a challenge, he said.
Miller enjoyed the medieval setting of the production, although the language had been modernised. He was thankful for his wife Sue’s efforts making the costumes because ‘‘you can’t just go get [medieval costumes] out of an op shop’’.
Some Canterbury Tales,
Ride on: Colin Eade with his draught horse in Some Canterbury Tales at Gryphon Theatre.