Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Posts Tagged ‘The Wife of Bath’

Three years ago a stage adaptation of Zadie Smith’s debut novel White Teeth was part of the Kiln Theatre’s (re)opening season, now she’s written a new play for the same theatre based on Chaucer’s 600-year-old tale of the Wife of Bath. If this is as faithful to Chaucer as they suggest, he must be one of the most feminist and sexually explicit writers ever. Just a little bit of research supports the former, but suggests the latter is a contemporary interpretation.

When I walked into the Kiln auditorium I gasped. Robert Jones’ transformation from theatre to pub is one of the most extraordinary I’ve ever seen. A giant three-part bar the width of the auditorium and tables & chairs surrounded by benches replacing most of the stalls. Chaucer’s tale is being told in The Sir Colin Campbell today rather than the Tabard Inn 600 years ago. It’s written in verse with the author also a character, sometimes with her Mac at a bar table, introducing and concluding her piece. The barmaid is something of a Bett Lynch character, big hair and leopard print.

The Wife of Willesden, Alvina, is larger than life and loud, as fond of Baileys as she is of sex, five husbands and still counting. Her tale covers them all, as they come forward to play their part with all the other characters and a few symbolic ones, like St Peter and Jesus Christ. Her explicit description of sexual acts, comparing and contrasting husbands, might challenge the broadest of minds. She occasionally engages members of the audience, and bursts into song and dance randomly.

It starts like a ball of energy, and I was convinced I was in for a fun evening, but I’m afraid it wore off way before it concluded. It felt laboured and heavy-handed and certainly didn’t sustain its 100 unbroken minute length; I was bored rather than offended. Substance was replaced by crudity as it became a sex romp, an adult panto. Clare Perkins works very hard bringing Alvina to life, and the nine other actors playing 21 parts between them maintain energy and momentum way beyond the point at which I’d lost mine.

For me it showcased a lot of outstanding creative and performing talent, but on material that wasn’t really worthy of it.

Read Full Post »