Canterbury Tales - St Andrew's College

Canterbury Tales

Swimming Honours awarded to John Maree
Mar 15, 2016
SAC Chapel Choir Benefit Art Exhibition 22 April 2016
Apr 6, 2016

Canterbury Tales

A cast of thirty-six characters, comprising Grade 8 and 9 pupils from St Andrew’s College and The Diocesan School for Girls, played in Lindsay Price’s adaptation of the Canterbury Tales designed for middle schools. Although the play retained some of the better-known ribald and bawdy Tales and characters, much was expurgated. This version exposed the players to the idea that most early literature was created for amusement and not for academic study. Parts of the play were delivered in verse, requiring the additional skill (beyond remembering lines, following cues, remaining in character) of timing and timbre.

Continuity is maintained in the script by a cast of eight pilgrims, undertaking a sacred journey to the shrine of Thomas Beckett, martyred in 1170 as a result of a political disagreement with the king of England. The pilgrims tell their own stories and at times act as a “Greek chorus” for others. Although seemingly far removed from the world of St Andrew’s College and DSG and South Africa of 2016, the themes of honour, sycophancy, greed, lust, corruption, petulance and the presentation of the appearance of virtue, balanced against the fact of baser natures, are as relevant today in this context as they were in the Canterbury of Geoffrey Chaucer’s imagination in the late 12th century.

The cast worked really hard in the weeks leading up to the production; once they were no longer reliant on their scripts and could begin to really act, they made great progress. As with any large cast, especially in this case where many of the actors had a role in only one of the seven Tales told, off-stage discipline remained a challenge but this was also considered to be part of the process of learning what was required in a dramatic production.

Younger actors need considerable time to develop empathy with their character and portray more than motivated movement and delivery of lines. At the end of the production, the cast, lighting technicians, make-up artist and directors could reflect on a positive process through which much was learned. Certainly, the play received acclaim from the audience who seemed to thoroughly enjoy the fare offered!