The Smirnoff Underbelly, Edinburgh
August, 2002

*** Patchy but intelligent student assemblage

No high concept here, just a handful of stories from Chaucer and Boccaccio. Some work well, some less well, but that's the Fringe all over.

The company of four actors and three actresses from Cambridge University's Amateur Dramatic Club get through seven or eight tales (depending on how you count) in an hour and three-quarters... a bit long for the Fringe, especially as a start to the day. They try as many different performance styles as they have yarns to spin, which results in a certain erratic quality. Sometimes the marriage is distinctly odd: Chaucer's Wife of Bath's Tale, which while not exactly bawdy is forthright and affirmative, is given a relatively drab antiphonal recitation for two female voices. And there's no significant attempt to create an overall structure: they simply start enacting the first tale, go through to the end of the final one, then stop.

Elsewhere, the company's skills and thoughtfulness come to the fore. Ed Lake is particularly skilled at deadpan humour, whether as a cuckolding clerk in Chaucer or a rich young twit in Boccaccio. Other performers vary from tale to tale, and possibly from director to director (there are signs of two distinctly different hands on the tiller). But it's unpretentious, and makes good use of the rough Underbelly performance space.

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Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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