The Canterbury Tales: A Home School Drama Class takes on the challenge

The Canterbury Tales or... Geoffrey Chaucer's Flying Circus
Directed by Dale Hirlehey.
Presented by A Different Drum Theatre Group
The ARTS Project, 203 Dundas Street, London
Wed., June 19, 7 p.m., Thurs., June 20, 7 p.m., Fri., June 21, 1 p.m. matinee; 7 p.m. evening performance; Sat., June 22 3 p.m. matinee  
TICKETS Adults $10 Children $5
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It’s always cute when the kids get dressed up and perform a little skit in front of the gathered adults. If two hours of that is your cup of tea, then A Different Drum Theatre Group’s latest production is right up your alley.

The Canterbury Tale is a living-room drama performed on a grander stage.

The troupe, a group of homeschooled youth aged seven to 17 from London and surrounding area, are in the midst of a six-performance run of Burton Bumgarner’s The Canterbury Tales (or... Geoffrey Chaucer’s Flying Circus) at The ARTS Project. As its first independent production, the troupe has undertaken an ambitious effort that is not only slightly beyond its reach, but also a little beyond its years.

Most of the actors acquit themselves nicely. Accents are performed with varying degrees of success, and the blocking, interaction, and delivery of lines are proof of the talent and longevity of this theatre troupe, which has been in existence since 2008, despite the young ages of its participants.

You really can’t fault the kids. They do their best – and some show real promise, a command of the stage, and the ability to perform.

Where you can find fault, however, is in the play itself.

Bumgarner’s play is allegedly targeted towards all ages, but finds itself removed from the participants and the youthful audience to which it’s intended. A comedy routine ripped from the Rodney Dangerfield opus? Elvis? A Larry King/Johnny Carson parody? References to the movie Titanic? Jokes about photolabs? The content could stand to be updated. When laughs were generated, they came from the adults in the audience, not the kids attending as the content went well over their head.

The drama service that offers the play suggests that companies can choose as many or as few tales as they’d like. This production is in need of serious editing.

Certain jokes, amusing at first, quickly become grating (and unnecessarily time-consuming) the fifth or sixth time; and, at two hours, the production can be a challenge for the younger members of the audience.

And a running joke that saw the miller prevented from telling his ribald tale actually served to generate more interest in the forbidden content than had it been ignored.

The Canterbury Tales are challenging for adults to perform, so full credit must go to these kids for tackling a very mature production.

And while this Up-With-People-styled presentation may not have been perfect, the actors themselves are entertaining and do the content – and themselves – proud.

Jay Menard is a communications specialist by day, freelance man about the media by night -- and father and husband first and foremost. Born in Montreal, Jay has bounced between Montreal and London writing and broadcasting on all media: print, Web, radio, and TV. More known for business, news, and sports writing, Jay has always loved attending and writing about the arts, and brings an outsider's perspective built upon on a broad foundation of experience to his work.

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