The Rap Canterbury Tales
Babasword Productions @ The Pillar Room (Freemasons)
9:00pm, Sat 18 Mar 2006
I’m a big fan of Chaucer, but I was reluctant to see this show on the off-chance that it sucked. However, one of the volunteers at Freemasons that I regularly chatted to positively raved about this show – so it got slotted in.
Baba Brinkman presents three of Chaucer’s characters wrapped up in an improbable story of rap adulation. The framework is flimsy, but when he delves into his rap-ified versions of the Pardoner, the Miller, and the Wife of Bath, the laughs come thick and fast – and the intelligent writing of the piece shines through.
Transforming the original prose in a more-or-less direct manner (there’s a sample translation on The Rap Canterbury Tales site) is a gutsy move, but the academic background of the piece shines through. There’s the occasional cringe at some of the rhymes or rhythms that Baba chooses, but the stories hold their own; and “The Rhyme Renaissance”, his conclusion to the show, is earnest and engaging.
There’s a certain honest naivety to the performance; Brinkman has poured his heart into the writing and the performance, and – whilst occasionally feeling a little cheap and cheesy – the Rap Canterbury Tales benefits from an intelligent analysis of both 14th century subversive poetry and 20th century urban rap. It may not the wittiest, sharpest, rudest, lewdest, or deepest show of the Fringe, but it provides plenty of quality entertainment and – above all – treats the audience with respect.