facebook play-alt chevron-thin-right chevron-thin-left cancel location info chevron-thin-down star-full help-with-circle calendar images mail whatsapp directions_car directions_bike train directions_walk directions_bus close spinner11

The Canterbury Tales (Parts I & II)

First Published 17 April 2008, Last Updated 22 April 2008

Bringing Chaucer’s epic story of pilgrims wending their way towards Canterbury to the stage is a gargantuan project, especially when you intend to use almost all of the tales. But this is exactly what the RSC has done, using 20 actors, three musicians, three directors and nearly six hours of stage time. Split into two self-contained productions (Part I and Part II), Mike Poulton’s adaptation features tales of high drama and chivalry, bawdy naughtiness and farting. Matthew Amer spent half his day at the Gielgud press performances.

Six hours is a long time to spend in a theatre, but in the hands of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the time flies by. Mike Poulton’s adaptation of Chaucer’s tales has lost much of the original language – the bane of many an English student’s life – but has kept the essence using rhyme and pronunciation. Adrian Lee’s music, played on and off-stage by a trio of talented musicians, adds to the experience of stepping back into the 14th century.

Chaucer, played with a lovable wit by Mark Hadfield, joins his pilgrims on the way to Canterbury, and as he tells his tale about the pilgrims telling tales, so the pilgrims’ tales are told. Are you following?

It is not just the tales that take centre stage though. As the travellers make their way, so they bicker and banter, josh and cajole, making their trip as enjoyable as the stories they tell. The ensemble cast perform miracles playing myriad roles – including Dylan Charles as a gloriously insipid Pardoner and Michael Matus as a Monk desperate to tell the dullest of tales – and bringing life to every one.

The use of three directors is evident in the production’s deliberate effort to give each tale its own flavour. Inspired staging including hand puppets, shadow puppets, stilts, music, masks and even a 14th century rap allows each story a life of its own; reflecting the style of Chaucer’s original.

The wonder of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales is its timeless nature. Stories that take central themes of lust, greed, love, honour, gentility and envy appeal to all ages of man.

Among the most famous of the tales; the Miller’s and Rever’s tales are performed at their bawdy best with all manner of sound effects added for good measure, the Nun’s Priest’s tale features muppet-style singing chickens to warn of the power of flattery, and the Wife Of Bath – she of the five husbands – tells of what women want.

The production’s pace never drops – with that many tales to tell, it can’t afford to – and the occasional knowing nods from Chaucer and the other characters only serve to endear them more to the hearts of the audience.



Sign up

Related articles

Due to the current pandemic various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows. Please bear with us as we try to keep this page as up to date as possible. If you find a mistake, please let us know by emailing enquiries@soltukt.co.uk. If you click through to seat selection (where you'll see either best available or a seating plan), you will be seeing the most up-to-date prices. If this differs from what we've written on the calendar, please bear with us, as those prices will update soon.

We now sell our famous TKTS Booth discounts online here at Official London Theatre.

We are now cancelling all performances up until and including 31 May 2020 to help us process existing bookings whilst we wait for further clarity from the government in terms of when we will be able to reopen.

We are so sorry that in these testing and difficult times you are not able to enjoy the show you have booked for and hope the following helps clarify next steps in respect of your tickets .

There is nothing that you need to do if your performance has been cancelled, but we do ask for your patience.

If you have booked directly with the theatre or show website for an affected performance, please be assured that they will contact you directly to arrange an exchange for a later date, a credit note/voucher or a refund. If you have booked via a ticket agent they will also be in contact with you directly.

We are processing in strict date order of performance, so you are likely to be contacted after the date you were due to go to the theatre. However, we want to reassure you that you will be contacted, and your order will be processed, but please do bear with us.

We’d like to thank everyone who has been patient and kind in dealing with their ticket providers so far and we are sorry that we cannot process your order as quickly as we would like.

Please do not contact your credit card company as that will slow the process down and put an additional burden on our box office and ticket agent teams.

In order for us to serve our audiences the best we can, please do not get in touch with your point of sale if you have booked for performances after 31 May. Please be reassured that if we have to cancel future performances you will be directly contacted by your theatre or ticket provider. Our producers continue to plan for all eventualities dependent on the individual needs of their shows and we will provide further updates on specific shows as and when they become available.

We look forward to welcoming you back into our theatres as soon as we are allowed to resume performances. In the meantime stay safe and healthy.

For more than 40 years, TKTS was our on-the-day theatre ticket box office in Leicester Square. Currently closed due to the current situation, we are now selling our great last minute seats and prices online. Click here to learn more.

While theatres are currently closed, various venues and productions are making announcements for their individual shows, including cancellations and rescheduled performances. Please check with the individual shows for details.