Julian Cervello as a Knight, a Squyre, a Yemen, two Prioresses, a Monk, a Frere, a Marchaunt, a Clerk, a Seargaunt o’ ye Lawe, a Frankelyn, a Haberdasherer, a Carpenter, a Webbe, a Dyer, a Tapicer, a Cook, a Shipman, a Doctour o’ Phisik, a Wife o’ biside Bath, a Persoun, a Ploughman, a Reeve, a Miller, a Somnour, a Pardonour & a Maunciple.
Written by Geoffrey Chaucer
Starring Julian Cervello
Directed by David Burke
Costume design by Carol Lewis
Dramaturgy by Bremner Duthie
Premiering at the 2011 Victoria Fringe Festival
Wood Hall (907 Pandora)
Tue Aug 30, 7:45
Wed Aug 31, 6:00
Fri Sept 2, 4:15
Sun Sept 4, 8:30
Imagine a game of charades at a cocktail party. There’s only one performer. He speaks, but only in Middle English. Your job is to figure out what’s going on.
I first performed Chaucer at the University of Toronto for a voice assignment. I generally felt uncomfortable and constrained during our voice presentations, and they were a pretty somber affair for all. We were being evaluated and the tension in the room was high. I performed Chaucer’s description and impersonation of a Nun, releasing that tension and sending the class into a fit of laughter.
Encouraged, I began reading The Canterbury Tales and committing more and more of the general prologue to memory. I got feedback on the material was learning at a monthly workshop I was running through the drama program. This culminated in a final showcase of the first half hour of what is nowCanterbury Cocktails.
The audience wasn’t wound as tight as my voice class had been. I had the undivided attention of over sixty people, but they were eerily quiet. I remember thinking, “Wow, they must really hate it.” I was shocked by the disconnect between the looks on their faces while I was performing, and the enthusiastic feedback afterwards. Someone commented, “That’s the closest thing to a time machine you’ll ever get.” I realized then that he had just told me the essential intention of the piece.
The physical language of this show is more important than the text itself, because without it a lot of the text would be incomprehensible. With so many words lost to modern English, hundreds of intricate gestures are needed to get ideas across. Therefore the most archaic words yield the richest creative opportunities.
I decided to premiere Canterbury Cocktails in Victoria so I moved out here after graduating and hired veteran artist David Burke, whose linguistic aptitude and sense of comic timing recommended him as director.
I met an impressive woman named Erin Hoyt who was organizing an adjudicated showcase of works in development at the Langham Court Theatre. The Activate Festival was where I first performed the second half of Canterbury Cocktails. It was one of many firsts. It was my first ever three-show day, given between two performances of Pornography at Theatre Inconnu. It was my first time performingCanterbury Cocktails on a proper stage, with theatrical lighting and the houselights down. It was also the first time I’d performed it in costume. It went very well, and was every bit as helpful as those first workshops in Toronto.
This show is many people’s first encounter with Chaucer’s poetry. Chaucer is much easier to listen to than read. This show was written over six hundred years ago and is being performed more or less as originally intended. The main difference is the six century gap between performer and audience. This mirrors the cultural gap between Chaucer’s aristocratic audience and common stock characters. The audience can’t help but see itself reflected in a remote and alien culture.
Contact us at Scrumpy productions:
Phone: 778 440-3353