Midsummer medieval madness

The Pantaloons open-air theatre company are promising midsummer medieval madness at Cowdray Ruins with The Complete Canterbury Tales.

In what they believe to be a theatrical first, The Pantaloons are performing every single one of the 23 completed Canterbury Tales: no mean feat considering the play features a cast of just six actors playing dozens and dozens of characters.

Adding to the challenge is the sheer breadth of the genres the company will tackle, says Caitlin Storey who is tackling no fewer than 35 parts.

You can expect a commedia-type piece, a charade, an opera, an Edgar Allen Poe rip-off, a 1950s sexist political broadcast, a rap battle, a barbershop quartet, pantomime, Noel Coward-style piece, a farce, a puppet show and even an improvised piece bringing in the audience.

Every story will be performed in a different theatrical style.

But helping things considerably is the fact that through Helen Taylor, who hails from Midhurst and acts with the company, they have been able to settle down in Midhurst to rehearse the piece as they contemplate the summer ahead - three months performing in 70 venues on their biggest tour so far.

The Pantaloons have received international acclaim for their annual Shakespeare-with-a-twist productions but they decided they would take a break from the Bard in 2011 - and it’s proved the right move.

“As great as Shakespeare is, lots of people do Shakespeare, but not many people do The Canterbury Tales, and quite a few more venues wanted to take advantage of it!”

The play follows a group of pilgrims who decide to hold a story-telling contest on the road from Southwark to the shrine of St Thomas Beckett in Canterbury. The pilgrims are from all walks of medieval life and include a Knight, a Miller, a Monk, a Prioress, a Shipman and a rather insatiable Wife of Bath.

“Their stories are just as diverse, including old favourites such as ‘boy meets girl’, ‘talking chicken meets fox’ and ‘red-hot poker meets naked bottom!’”

Caitlin stressed: “Anyone unfamiliar with middle English has no need to panic as the show has been newly translated into vibrant modern language.”

Like Chaucer’s rude original, the show promises plenty of bawdy fun but, with something for everyone, this family-friendly adaptation is suitable for all ages.

More details on www.thepantaloons.co.uk. Shows are in the open air and continue in all weather bar a full-blown tempest. Prices £10 adult/ £3.50 child (advance) £12/ £5 on the door

The company will perform at Cowdray Ruins on June 23 at 7pm. On July 24, they play Nymans (National Trust), Haywards Heath.