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Box Theatre Company - The Canterbury Tales

14th to 17th May 2014.

Review from the Newbury Weekly News.

Box's bawdy birthday treat

Box Theatre Company: The Canterbury Tales, at The Watermill, Bagnor, from Wednesday, May 14 to Saturday, May 17

Box Theatre Company is celebrating 21 years of producing exciting and imaginative work and this production is no exception. Their choice of The Canterbury Tales: Chaucer Made Modern by Phil Woods was a challenging theatre piece, a hilarious bawdy romp through nine of the famous tales in the form of a competition where the audience has to decide which of the stories is the best.

We are guided through this process by Pippa Smart (Tracey Donnelly) as our replacement convivial MC, who jollied things along while sitting in the corner with the book, enjoying her tea, sandwiches and cakes and telling the most dreadful jokes.

Each tale was told by one of the company with the rest of the splendid cast acting it out. They are delivered in verse, with some highly inventive and humorous touches such as Wellingtons on sticks to represent horses and colanders on heads for armour... all great fun.

Neal Murray and Jon Harding as Palamon and Arcite in The Knight's Tale performed with energy and childish angst, with Keith Keer providing some gravitas.

The Reeve's Tale had Wilson Manson as an accountant while The Miller's Tale was cancelled as being too rude.

There was good use of physical theatre in The Nun's Priest Tale, with the cast playing chickens, an American cockerel in the style of Elvis and a very sly and wicked fox.

Jessica Sherriff was excellent in The Wife of Bath's Tale and Duncan Mack took every opportunity to appear in drag - absolutely hilarious.

There was some good pantomime fun in the bedroom scenes with a giant duvet as the lustful pleasures were enacted. The quest to find "what pleases a woman most" had much audience interaction and hilarity.

Adelina Miller, Alexandra Cameron-Watts and Beth West all performed hi the various tales with gusto and Paul Isherwood narrated several tales from The Watermill balcony.

Eventually, the mucky Miller's Tale was told, including the unmentionable use of a red-hot poker - the audience really enjoyed the buffoonery.

The play was directed by members of the company rather than a single person and perhaps cutting some of the stories would have made the evening slicker, as it did overrun by quite a margin and the action and format was beginning to become rather repetitive.

However, congratulations to Box Theatre on a very entertaining 21st birthday production.