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Mr Monkey sees The Pardoner's Tale at the Royal Exchange Studio

Venue : Royal Exchange Studio
Start date: 18th June 2014
End date : 28th June 2014
Visit date : 19th June, 2014
Mr Monkey looking at the The Pardoner's Tale poster
Mr Monkey trotted along to the Royal Exchange Studio to see The Pardoner's Tale, a co-production by Unicorn and Tangere Arts theatre companies. Written, directed and composed by Lewis Gibson, the play is based on the Prologue, Pardoner's Prologue and the Pardoner's Tale from Chaucer's Canterbury Tales, with additions (such as sins involving Twitter and being a banker) to place it in the 21st century.

While there's no interval, The Pardoner's Tale has two distinct parts. In the first part the Pardoner explains his role in life, which is selling Papal pardons for all sorts of sins. He elaborates on the techniques used to persuade people to part with their money.

In the second part of the play, the Pardoner tells one of the tales he uses to stir the consciences of the rich. In a plague-struck part of Flanders, three thugs find out that a mutual friend has died suddenly. They drunkenly and completely logically decide to get revenge by finding and killing Death. When they search the nearby countryside an old man directs them to a deep and dark wood, where instead of meeting Death they find a sack of gold. Surprisingly, this does not lead to them living happily ever after.

The Pardoner and his musicians make a dramatic entrance (photo from Unicorn website)
The core of The Pardoner's Tale is a bravura solo performance by Gary Lagden, who plays the Pardoner, all three thugs, an old man and the apothecary. Each character has a distinct voice and posture, and as they spend a lot of time arguing with each other the jump from persona to persona has to be made quickly. He's also very good at engaging with the audience and getting some people to admit to minor sins (in exchange for a properly written out pardon).

Gary is excellently supported by Hannah Marshall and Christopher Preece who skillfully provide live music, singing, and perfectly timed sound effects throughout. Mr Monkey was really pleased to be able to see the sound effects being produced at the same time as hearing them. Hannah and Christopher also provide a small segment of shadow-puppetry as the three Flemish thugs venture into the forest. The stage has no scenery as such, just a series of wheeled boxes and workbenches which can be moved when necessary, usually by Hannah and Christopher.

The Pardoner (Gary Lagden) and his musicians (Hannah Marshall and Christopher Preece) set about the business selling forgiveness (photo from Unicorn website) Mr Monkey's pardon, valid until the end of time
Mr Monkey thoroughly enjoyed this play from the powerful and ominous beginning to the shower of free pardons at the end, and recommends it to everyone.

The Pardoner's Tale runs until 28th June 2014.

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