The Canterbury Tales

by Geoffrey Chaucer - adapted by Phil Woods and Michael Bogdanov

directed by Fran Morley

Performed at

Mottisfont Abbey


15th to 25th July 1992

ONCE UPON A TIME, around 1373, there was Geoffrey Chaucer and the Canterbury pilgrims and then, around 1973, there was Phil Woods with Michael Bogdanov and the New Vic Theatre....

This adaptation cantered into the Young Vic in 1979 and has galloped on through the 80s and into the 90s, via the Chichester Festival Theatre among many other places, arriving finally at the 605th anniversary of the Geoffrey Chaucer Story Telling Competition presented by the villagers of South Maskersfont at the neighbouring Mottisfont Abbey.

Take a well-known classic, turn it into popular theatre and the academics may well look down their noses, but those seeking a fun night out in the open air will find our production is in the best tradition of lively story- telling. The tales run the gamut of entertainment from Henry Irving style Pageantry to Eccentric Fairy Tale, from Pantomime to Cod Opera, from Cartoon Fable to Gothic Morality Tale and then there is the Bawdy, Rustic Farce .... ! Even in Middle English the Miller’s Tale has a lusty vulgarity which students of all ages have long enjoyed and I can understand Micky Munday entering it for the competition. However since he’s inclined to get carried away the selection committee has banned it ‘‘on account of it being lacking in common decency and taste.’’ The Reeve’s Tale only got in by the skin of its teeth! But as he says:

So let us now our tale unfold
And if you find the action bold
Before you throw a cup and saucer
Don’t blame me but Geoffrey Chaucer.

Fran Morley

Dorothy Marshall The M.C. Christine Baker
Helena Gabriarcci The Assistant M.C Hazel Burrows
Jim Brown January, Theseus, Arveragus David Bartlett
Colin McNulty Arcile, The Reeve, Chanticleer  Robbie Carnegie
Wayne Merriman Palamon, John, Dick  John Carrington Jnr
Kate Ingram Mrs. Simkins, The Wife of Bath Nicky Horne
PercySidebottom Justinus, The Cook, The Franklyn, Tom David Jupp
Dawn Berriedale The Merchant, Dorigen, Fox Angela Mackie
Joe Tigworth Alan, Aurelius’ Brother, Nicholas Davie McKee
Tanya Munday Molly, Alison Sarah Spencer
Mickey Munday A Knight, Absalom, Aurelius Brian Stansbridge
Annie Munday Emily, The Nun’s Priest, Barmaid/Shopkeeper Angela Stansbridge
Jessica Fforbes-Smythe Hyppolita, Proserpine, Pertelote Jenni Watson
Nathaniel Briar The Knight, Damian, A Mystic Simon Wills
Emma Hartley May, The Hag, The Pardoner Karen Upfield
Seth Merriman Pluto, A Miller, Harry, John Bruce Atkinson
Anyan Cook, Marysia Kazmierska, Alice Watson, Sarah Cox, Kathryn Morley, Ellen Watson, Debbie Foster, Sandra Philip, Katie Ward

Geoffrey Chaucer

Born c.1340, the son of a London wine-merchant, he served as page to the Countess of Ulster and later entered the household of Edward III. In 1360 he was captured by the French near Rheims and ransomed by Edward. He married Philippa Roet, a lady of the Queen’s chamber. He took several diplomatic missions, especially to Italy in 1372-3 and 1378. From 1374-86 he was Controller of Customs on Wool and Hides in the port of London; MP for Kent, 1386; Clerk of the King’s Works, 1389-91. He died in 1400 and was buried in Westminster Abbey.

Chaucer’s interest extended beyond literature to philosophy and science: he translated Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy and composed at least one treatise on Astronomy. Although he lived through one of the most remarkable ages of English poetry (the reign of Richard II), it was French, together with Latin, literature that mainly influenced him. He was also the first English writer to ‘discover’ the great Italian authors, Dante, Petrarch and Boccaccio. His masterpiece, Troilus and Criseyde, a narrative poem in five books, was completed c.1385. From c1387 he worked on The Canterbury Tales, which remained unfinished at his death.

Phil Woods

Originally an actor, Phil Woods wrote his first play, Settle Us Fair, about the Hull Trawlermen’s strike in 1970.
Since then he has had over forty plays produced by many companies including the Half Moon, Foco Novo, Royal Court Theatre Upstairs, Tyneside Theatre, Newcastle’s Live Theatre (Spain, Kiddar’s Luck) and Durham Theatre Co. (Pitmatic Times). In 1974, on a bursary from Thames T.V., he worked as resident writer at the Phoenix Theatre, Leicester, where Michael Bogdanov suggested that he adapt Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales as a Christmas show. Dracula .... or a Pain in the Neck followed the next year.
Both plays eventually formed the initial repertoire of the New Vic Theatre which tours throughout Britain, and for which Phil Woods has subsequently written ‘The Three Musketeers’, ‘Buddy Holly at the Regal’ and ‘The Last of the Mohicans’. Whilst working for the Welsh Drama Company he was commissioned to adapt three further tales. Since 1972 he has lived in Chilton, Co. Durham.

For the Maskers
Director Fran Morley
Production Manager Ken Spencer
Stage Manager Angela Barks
Assistant Stage Manager Julia Campone
Set Design and Construction Chris Finbow, Geoff Cook, Bryan Langford, Edwin Beecroft
Stage Crew Mike Turner, Elaine Foot, Martin Caveney
Lighting Design Tony Lawther
Lighting Operators Clive Weeks, Stuart Cross
Sound Lawrie Gee, Dave King, Adrian Plaw
Properties Ella Lockett, Kathryn Morley
Wardrobe Jane Royle, Angela Stansbridge, Nancy Ornell, Jenny Martin, Phyliss Whistler
Wardrobe Hire Haslemere Wardrobe
Front-of-House Manager Stephanie Bartel
Bar Manager Graham Jeffry
Wigs Show Biz of Southampton
Fight Arranger Paul Benzing
Voice Coach Angela Mackie
Production Assistant Jean Durman
Publicity & Marketing Jan Ward
Musicians Pete Robson, Susie Williams, Richard Stannard, Mike Bailey, Ellen Watson, Sarah Cox, Chris Nelson, Gordon Thick, Marysia Kazmierska


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