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The Canterbury Tales (Tour - Salford)

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
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For an evening of bawdy humour of the type enjoyed 600 years ago, see Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales adapted for stage by Mike Poulton and performed by Northern Broadsides with the New Vic theatre.

In the uninhibited 14th century, they thought nothing of using words such as ‘farting’, ’arse’ and ‘swyving.' You don’t have to be an academic to work out what the latter means. Let’s just say there is plenty of farce-like bed hopping. Chaucer (Andy Cryer),  the narrator at the Tabard Inn, explains how the pub’s host organises a Britain’s got Talent style story-telling competition for those conducting a pilgrimage to Canterbury.He even offers a prize for the best tale – a free dinner.

I’d hate to be a judge. Had I been one, I certainly wouldn’t have chosen the far-fetched Knight’s Tale, about two imprisoned Princes who both fancy a lady who passes by.  It is a tad too long and quite complicated though, that said, Neil Salvage’s narration is one of the best.

It is difficult to choose between the others, but two of the funniest are The Miller’s Tale and the Reeve’s Tale closely followed by The Merchant’s Tale, which is raunchy to the end. After much thought, I’d give the prize to The Reeves’ Tale because with lusty noises and movements beneath the sheets the actors convey uninhibited fun as they unwittingly switch bed partners.

Some of these stories even have a moral element such as not being able to escape death or the importance of faithfulness in marriage. But what keeps you smiling is the humour, which is expertly delivered by the strong cast. These lively actors are directed by Conrad Nelson, who also composes appropriate music. The 16-strong company manage to take on countless roles, play numerous musical instruments, and sing unaccompanied.

Among them are well known TV names such as At Home with the Braithwaites actress Ishia Bennison, aka Guizin Ozman in Eastenders, Emily Butterfield from The Secret Diary of a Call Girl and Richard Standing, Coronation Street’s Danny Hargreaves.

This excellent production contains innovative features such as Lis Evams’ flexible wooden set  and puppets by Lee Threadgold, which are used to thrilling effect.

For a raunchy and hilarious night out, I say go and enjoy as you won’t regret it. Had it been written today, the censors probably wouldn’t have given you the chance!

Pure perfection.

- Julia Taylor

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