Friday, 5 December 2008

Chauntecleer and Pertelotte - Hen & Chickens Theatre Bar

Chauntecleer and Pertelotte By Dougie Blaxland
Director: James Bounds
Reviewer: Honour Bayes

Based loosely on The Nun’s Priest’s Tale, one of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chauntecleer and Pertelotte is a slickly performed, well written and directed piece, which for all these things still cannot convince of its reason for being produced. The basis of its parts and the sum of none, this show feels more like an actor’s showcase than a piece of theatre and the question has to be asked, why revise this tale?

It is the flighty story of Chauntecleer, a proud and sexual cockerel, who woes his innocent chick Pertelotte until she is his lascivious and fruity mistress. All is well with these horny birds until Chauntecleer is caught enjoying the attentions of the farmer’s wife, at which point Pertelotte takes a vicious revenge. Seemingly hell indeed hath no fury like a hen scorned.

Apart from learning this moral nugget however the audience has nothing more that it can take from this slight piece of work. This is not to say that the writing is not beautifully fruity and tootie and ripe, and with Lamb Lovelies and Bull Bolleckies’ dropping left right and centre, this is a script which is a pleasure to listen to. Furthermore Tim Dewberry and Annie Hemingway do masterfully with their roles, pluming and puffing and pecking and jutting elegantly as the birds, they are equally as focussed and precise in their human characters’ physicality. Vocally also they relish each line with glee and even if some of the accents which they lace these with are sometimes off key, it is clear that they are savouring the humpy pumpy rhythms of Dougie Blaxland’s script.

James Bounds moves his actors around the stage with confidence and élan, and the two performers play off each other with an assurance and stylishness belaying a strong external eye.

An admirable lesson in technique from all creative parties involved and yet teaching very little else, Chauntecleer and Pertelotte is all form and no content. At the end of the piece, this is a failing which is even mentioned by the performers themselves; on vocalising that nothing has been learnt, they seem to conclude that this is not an issue and that enjoyment is all that mattered. But through the very act of mentioning it they belay their worry that although an enjoyable piece of fluff, this production is as light on content as a feather and as such is not the successful piece of theatre that its creative components should have made it.
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