educational resources

SEE BELOW FOR EDUCATION RESOURCE PACK CREATED BY OUR EXCELLENT PARTNERS, London’s pREMIER uNICORN tHEATRE

WITH OUR SUPPORT

AND WATCH THE PARDONER

AT THE UNICORN-THE UK’S MAJOR  THEATRE FOR YOUNG AUDIENCES

16 – 31 JAN

THE PARDONER’S TALE TEACHER RESOURCE PACK FOR TEACHERS WORKING WITH PUPILS IN YEAR 4 – 7

CONTENTS

  1. INTRODUCTION p. 2

An introduction to the Unicorn Theatre and Tangere Arts’ co-production of The Pardoner’s Tale and the possibilities for linking to the curriculum.

CHAUCER’S THE CANTERBURY TALES p. 3

The Pardoner’s Tale is one of the stories in Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales. This section is a brief introduction to this Fourteenth Century text which is an important part of English literary heritage.

THE CHARACTER OF THE PARDONER p. 4

The pardoner would have been a familiar character in the Fourteenth Century and this section provides background information that helps to create a context for The Pardoner’s Tale for a modern audience.

A PARDONER’S TALE FOR THE TWENTY-FIRST CENTURY p. 5

This section gives some insight into Tangere Arts and the Unicorn’s adaptation.

SUMMARY OF CHAUCER’S THE PARDONER’S TALE p. 6

THE CANTERBURY TALES – CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS FOR YOUNG READERS p. 7

The Pardoner’s Tale is only one of the stories in The Canterbury Tales and teachers may want to introduce the class to the other tales.

THE LANGUAGE OF CHAUCER p. 8

The Canterbury Tales were written in Middle English and this production will retain some of Chaucer’s language. This section looks at the opening of The Pardoner’s Tale in the original version.

THE CANTERBURY TALES AND THE HISTORY OF PRINTING p. 9

Although written before the introduction of the printing press, Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales was one of the first books printed in England by William Caxton.

INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR – LEWIS GIBSON p. 10 – 14

This interview gives some insight into the way the director has approached creating this version of The Pardoner’s Tale.

THE PARDONER’S TALE TEACHER CPD ACTIVITIES p. 15 -16

This section is an outline of some of the activities that will be explored on the Unicorn Theatre’s teacher CPD day for the The Pardoner’s Tale.

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INTRODUCTION

Tangere Arts and the Unicorn Theatre’s co-production of The Pardoner’s Tale is not only an engaging piece of adventurous theatre it is also an introduction for young audiences to one of the most influential literary works written in English: Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales.

These resources provide a brief introduction for teachers to the historical context of The Pardoner’s Tale, the period in which The Canterbury Tales was written and the language of the time. These resources also include outline descriptions of drama and other classroom activities that will be developed in more detail for the CPD day at the Unicorn on 18 November. The CPD is a whole day experiential workshop using drama, reading, writing and visual responses to explore themes in the play. The teacher resources given out on the day will support teachers in developing active ways to contextualise The Pardoner’s Tale before coming to the theatre. They aim to enable young audiences to tune into the performance and to Chaucer’s England and his place in English literary heritage. They will also explore ways of drawing on Tangere Arts’ theatrical style to create new performances.

CURRICULUM LINKS

Coming to the Unicorn to see The Pardoner’s Tale as a school visit will be a special event and teachers will want it to be an enjoyable and engaging experience for their class. Pre-show activities will support teachers in establishing a connection to the play. Post-show activities will support teachers in exploring responses to the play and the approach Tangere Arts have taken.

The activities use drama, exploration of text, storytelling, and writing as ways of exploring and creating meaning. Whilst the resources do not take an objective led approach, teachers will be able to establish links to the relevant curriculum objectives for their particular year group at Key Stages 2 and 3 and can adapt these for their particular educational setting.

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CHAUCER’S THE CANTERBURY TALES

In Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales a group of people from different walks of life are on a pilgrimage to the shrine of St Thomas a Beckett in Canterbury. Some of their trades and professions still sound familiar to us in the 21st Century: the Cook, the Miller, the Nun, and the Merchant, for example and there are others whose roles reflect life in the 14th Century: the Squire, the Canon’s Yeoman, the Franklin, the Reeve and the Pardoner. The journey of about 60 miles from Southwark to Canterbury can be made in just over an hour today but in Chaucer’s time it would have taken much longer. To pass the time the pilgrims agreed to take part in a storytelling competition, drawing straws to determine whose turn it is to tell a tale. Romances, bawdy stories, legends, lives of the saints, fables, morality tales and sermons are told as they journey and the prize for the best story is a meal on their return at The Tabard Inn in Southwark, not far from where the Unicorn Theatre stands today.

William Blake’s Canterbury Pilgrims, painted in 1808

Tangere Arts have taken Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale and created a piece of contemporary theatre that bridges the centuries. The story the Pardoner tells, The Three Young Men and Death, which was already well known when Chaucer included it in The Canterbury Tales in 1387, is as fitting a moral tale for 2013 as it was then.

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THE PARDONER

BACKGROUND INFORMATION

It will be helpful for teachers to know a little about who pardoners were in Chaucer’s time so that they can tune their class in to his job and character before seeing the play. In 14th Century England a pardoner would have been familiar figure in towns and villages.

Pardoners also sold ‘holy relics’ which were artefacts that they claimed were the bones, body parts, scraps of clothing or personal belongings of saints and which held miraculous, curative powers. Although the pardoner was a role set up by the Church it became open to fraud and corruption and most relics were in fact made by the pardoners themselves. Even though 14th Century England was a deeply religious country, most people recognised pardoners to be fraudsters who were out to sell fake relics to anyone foolish enough to buy them, pocketing the money they made rather than donating it to the Church.

The pardoner that Chaucer depicts in The Canterbury Tales with his quick wit and amazing claims for relics would have been a recognisable figure. He is a trickster who lets his audience into the secrets of his trade and confesses his fraudulent ways at the same as trying to get the pilgrims to part with their money.

Whatever it is the pardoner sermonises against it is evident in what he says that he is guilty of such sins himself. For his story he takes as his motto Radix malorum est Cupiditas the love of money is the root of all evil – and tells the pilgrims a moral tale of three ‘roisterers’ to warn them of the sins of greed and avarice. Like a market trader who knows that a good line in patter helps trade, Chaucer’s pardoner is a performer who knows how to hold the attention of his audience when he tells the story of The Three Young Men and Death.

Pardoners were men licensed by the Church to raise funds for the maintenance of church property and they travelled the country selling ‘pardons’ to people who either knew they had committed minor sins and wanted to be forgiven or wanted to be excused from fasting on holy days.

Image of the Pardoner in The Canterbury Tales

Published for the first time in 1492

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TANGERE ARTS & THE UNICORN THEATRE’S

VERSION OF THE PARDONER’S TALE

In this production of The Pardoner’s Tale the pardoner, played by Gary Lagden, is a quick-witted, silver-tongued trickster – part magician, part sermoniser – who uses his persuasive storytelling powers to sell pardons and excuses to his audience. Just like Chaucer’s pardoner, he reveals his tricks to the crowd, shows his disdain for the fools who fall for his trickery (not you; last week’s crowd!) but still suggests that the audience should buy his ‘notes’ to buy their way out of their own wrong doing.

This is a production full of striking visual images, music that is integral to the storytelling and Foley art – using everyday objects to create sound effects and underscore the story. The tale of The Three Young Men and Death will be told using some of Chaucer’s rich language and the Pardoner’s Latin motto – Radix malorum est Cupiditas – is one of the first lines the audience will hear. Whilst the pardoner lets the audience into the secrets of his trade, the production lets them into the secrets of theatre – the audience will see how sounds are made, how lights are moved, scenery shifted and illusions created.

CHAUCER’S THE PARDONER’S TALE:

A SUMMARY

In Chaucer’s The Pardoner’s Tale the pardoner is invited to tell a story to the pilgrims that has a moral, that will ‘tell us some moral thing that we may learn’. The pardoner says that before he begins he would like to have drink and a little time to think about which story to tell. He then begins by explaining to the pilgrims that whenever he preaches he always chooses the same theme: Radix malorum est Cupiditas – the love of money is the root of all evil.

He tells the pilgrims about how he presents his holy relics to a congregation and tells them what miraculous powers they have and the tricks he uses for getting people to buy his pardons – suggesting that if they refuse it is because they are so sinful that the pardons won’t work.

The pardoner doesn’t hide from the pilgrims the fact that he has disdain for the people he is tricking, that his holy relics are fake and that he keeps most of the money for himself, becoming rich through his deception.

The pardoner then sermonises on gluttony, drunkenness and gambling, arguing that to consume in excess is to waste and dishonour God’s gifts.

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The pardoner then tells his story:

One day three young men, who are friends, are drinking in a tavern when they hear a funeral procession passing by and the Landlord tells them it’s a friend of theirs. When the three friends demand to know who has killed him the Landlord tells them it was Death.

The young men become angry and decide to go and find Death and murder him. They swear an oath of friendship and set off together to find Death.

On the road they meet a very old man who says he has been waiting for Death and he still hasn’t come for him. But he tells that them that he has seen him under a tree which he points out to the young men.

The three friends hurry to the tree where they find three bags of gold coins. They decide they can move the gold only when night falls and it is dark. They draw straws to decide who should go to the town to buy food and wine. The youngest pulls the short straw.

The youngest sets off on his journey. As he gets to town he makes a plan; he will poison the other two and keep all the gold for himself.

In town, he buys some food and three bottles of wine. He buys poison from the apothecary and adds it to two of the bottles.

Back at the tree the other two have plotted to kill the youngest on his return, so that they can share the gold between the two of them. When they see the youngest coming they jump out and stab him.

The two celebrate by drinking the bottles of wine – they drink the two with the poison in and die.

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THE CANTERBURY TALES

CONTEMPORARY VERSIONS FOR YOUNG READERS

Many teachers will be aware of The Canterbury Tales as a title but may not have read it. There are many versions adapted for young readers that will help introduce both teachers and children to Chaucer’s work. These include:

The Canterbury Tales (1993) Selina Hastings

Now out of print but available as a used copy

Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales (2008) Marcia Williams

Written in her familiar cartoon style and still in print

Canterbury Tales (1997) Geoffrey Chaucer

A Penguin Classic now out of print but available as a used copy

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THE PARDONER’S TALE RESOURCE PACK

MIDDLE ENGLISH: THE LANGUAGE OF CHAUCER

Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in English which, in the 14th Century, was the language of ordinary literate people. In Chaucer’s time Latin was the written language read by educated scholars and Norman French was still the language of the courts, so in choosing to write The Canterbury Tales in English, Chaucer was aware of who he wanted to hear his stories.

The English of Chaucer’s time is called ‘Middle English’ and it can look and sound like a different language to contemporary speakers of modern English. However, when we look at the Middle English of Chaucer’s time, the spelling patterns and some words are still familiar to us today and when we hear Middle English read aloud there is also a familiarity to the pattern and cadence of the language. Looking at and listening to Middle English creates a link between us and the voices of people living in the same country 700 years ago. It is also a reminder that language is a living thing that changes over time.

THE OPENING TO CHAUCER’S THE PARDONER’S TALE – DISCOVERING MIDDLE ENGLISH

Have a look at the opening of Chaucer’s text in Middle English. The ‘englishness’ of it is immediately recognisable: some of the words will be easily understood, in some the spelling looks to us as if Chaucer has made mistakes, the syntax will be familiar and only a few of the words seem as if they are not English. You can listen to audio Gary Lagden (the actor who plays the pardoner) reading this section of the text here: unicorntheatre.com/the-pardoners-tale/for-schools

Look closely and even if a reader can’t understand what is written, the spelling patterns reveal the end rhymes and the discovery that Chaucer wrote in rhymed couplets.

Knowing what the pardoner is saying will be helpful in trying to puzzle out the language: he is saying that when he preaches in church he always makes sure he uses a loud voice, that he knows everything he wants to say by heart and that he has only one theme – Radix malorum est Cupiditas.

‘Lordynges’ quod he, ‘in chirches whan I preche

I peyne me to han an hauteyn speche,

And rynge it out as round as gooth a belle,

For I kan al by rote that I telle

My theme is alwey oon and evere was –

Radix malorum est Cupiditas.’

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DISCOVERING MIDDLE ENGLISH CONTINUED

This exploration of the meaning and pattern of language will be developed as a classroom activity for KS2/3 on the Unicorn’s CPD day on 18 November.

This version of The Pardoner’s Tale is not in Middle English but it is a production that explores the boundaries of language and time through adventurous theatre. It draws on the language that Chaucer used and matches it with the exuberance of contemporary English.

CHAUCER’S CANTERBURY TALES:

ITS PLACE IN THE HISTORY OF PRINTING

In the 21st Century we are used to the immediacy of print and the quantity of printed material is almost beyond reckoning. In the 14th Century, however, books were still written by hand with any other copies being made by scribes. Chaucer wrote The Canterbury Tales in 1387 and in his lifetime there were only two copies made but it became the first work of English literature to be printed by William Caxton (who bought printing to England) in 1476, 68 years after Chaucer’s death.

Whilst teachers may not be in a position to create a full scale project on the history of printing with their class, coming to see The Pardoner’s Tale is an opportunity to widen the class’ understanding of the ways in which printing and the reproduction of texts has developed over time. The British Library holds Caxton’s two editions of Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales and these can be viewed online: www.bl.uk/treasures/caxton/homepage.html and the British Library’s Treasures in Full pages also give a helpful introduction to both Chaucer and the history of printing.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR – LEWIS GIBSON

WHAT IS AT THE HEART OF THIS STORY FOR YOU?

The dream of becoming rich, famous, to have a completely different life from the one we are in is as present today amongst young people as it ever was. Some might say even more so since ‘celebrity’ culture has taken hold.

This is all well and good and we can probably agree that the behaviour in the story is not very good, and the moral lesson learnt is pretty clear.

TELL US ABOUT THE CHARACTER OF THE PARDONER

The pardoner tells us this story for his own reasons. He is using the moral high ground to aid his business. Originally, in Chaucer, this would have been to sell us fake religious artefacts which were supposed to hold magical powers, or pardons signed by the Pope to forgive us of certain sins. In our production, the pardoner has a similar agenda. He tries to get you on board, to like him, he tells you what a special bunch of people you are. Instead of artefacts and pardons, he sells pills and creams that can make you stronger, smarter, more beautiful and he sells notes; excuse notes that can get you off homework, or out of sports, or off work, fake exam results and fake OFSTED reports. You name it, he can provide it.

At the heart of The Pardoner’s Tale is a story about trust, friendship and greed. There is no hero in this story, no one wins or comes out on top. It shows us how easy it is to forget our friends and to lose our moral compass when the prospect of huge wealth looms.

The character of the pardoner appeals to our own sense of greed and wanting a quick route to success.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR CONTINUED…

HOW WILL YOU EXPLORE THE CHARACTER OF DEATH IN THE PLAY?

Another strand that features in Chaucer’s tale is the notion of death. It was written at a time when the plague could devastate whole communities and many factors caused untimely death. The idea of being able to cheat death, to buy more time, or even, as is attempted in this tale, to actually kill death is somethng that features quite a bit in our production. There is even a character who wishes to die, but cannot. We are thinking of this as a metaphor for having control over our lives, to be able to shape our own destiny, rather than everything being in the hands of others. This is, I believe, a concept that the young mind can understand.

HOW WILL YOU BE EXPLORING ILLUSION AND TRUTH IN THE PLAY?

We are encouraged as young people to believe what we are told; our elders know best and ours is not to reason why. But the inquisitive mind cannot help asking questions, challenging ideas, and it is this facet of the human mind that has been very important in our social development and making this modern world of ideas that we are lucky enough to inhabit.

He tries to sell us items that can alleviate us from any of these worries. He might be aligned to a modern insurance salesman. What he offers is peace of mind, but is of little use when push comes to shove.

For so many children, they will receive wisdom from home, friends, school teachers, television and the internet that are often very conflicting. Who to believe? I hope that this piece helps them to ask that question in a light hearted way.

People often spin a story or a yarn or a particular political or religious point of view for selfish reasons. The pardoner is one of these. He tries to fill us with fear of the future, be this eternal damnation in hell or awful times ahead in our lives.

It is ironic, of course, that I am trying to discuss artifice through the means of the greatest fraud of all – theatre.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR CONTINUED…

Our pardoner uses theatrical tricks to help his cause, and we allow the audience to see through these (most of the time), to let the artifice of the theatre stand in for the fraudulent opinions and actions of the pardoner and the characters in his tale.

CHAUCER’S LANGUAGE – HOW WILL YOU TUNE YOUR AUDIENCE INTO THIS?

Chaucer wrote this tale in English and not Latin as was often done in his time, making the work accessible to many more people..

The Pardoner’s Tale is written in Middle English, which can be very hard to follow. However, part of the attraction to doing this story is the unusual language, so we do not want to lose it all together. Our last four plays have been in verse and a good actor can make verse read like prose, avoiding the ‘dum dee dum’ rhythms that can become very dull.

Like with Shakespeare, it is what Chaucer does with language, the beauty and skill he employs with words that make his work so appealing across centuries.

We are going to use as much original Middle English as possible, but we are speaking it in a modern voice, with modern spelling, so it is accessible. However, even that can be hard for the ears, so we are going to slowly introduce this enigmatic language during the first part of the piece.

Everyone knows that what they see in a theatre is not real, yet can be swept up into a story and feel all sorts of real feelings in response to it. It is a very sophisticated game that we all play and this production will try to use this game and bend the rules to our advantage. Beware.

Rhyme, especially when a little hidden, can really help text sink home for the audience, it stays in the memory for a while longer and our brains seem to enjoy the sport of poetry.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR CONTINUED…

We will begin in modern poetic prose, sliding into modern verse and then eventually add in the Middle English. Often it is the vocabulary rather than anything else that is a problem; simply the use of words that no longer exist. Sometimes we will keep these if the action explains them, and sometimes we will replace them with a suitable modern word. For instance ‘lecherye’ meant ‘luxury’, so we will use the latter.

Chaucer also uses a lot of references to Christian doctrine of the time, and to the over use and large consumption of alcohol. Neither of these subjects are that useful to a modern child. Of course some young people will have experience of organised religion and some will know of the effects of alcohol, but a lived experience of these subjects will not be so common. So we will replace drunkenness with the sugar rush and with more general types of gluttony and excess such as over eating the ‘wrong’ kinds of things. Religion will still be present, but moral dilemmas are expressed in a way that all young people from a diversity of backgrounds can engage with.

HOW WILL YOU BE USING MUSIC AND FOLEY IN THE PIECE?

For me, music and sound and song can be really useful tools in helping support a story, or give a different take on what is happening. For instance, we might have a charming character underscored with a menacing soundtrack. Music gives us clues to emotional states and can help tell us where and when we are.

We are using song in this piece to do a number of things: To help recap or pre-empt the story in a clear and simple fashion, to give the audience some light relief and have a break from the plot for a while, and to go places in language and style that are very different from the rest of the piece. A song interlude can be seen as a bubble that exists on its own, but nestled quite comfortably amongst the rest of the show.

We will have elements of medieval music in this production, to give a flavour of the period mixed with more contemporary references to ‘gothic’ and pompous granduer such as Doom Metal / Phantom Of The Opera.

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INTERVIEW WITH THE DIRECTOR CONTINUED…

In this production we are making use of the world of Foley (live sound effects). We are doing this for a variety of reasons: So the audience can see the mechanics whilst still being ‘in the moment’, so we can musicalise sounds and turn them into rhythms and melodies, for visual fun and so we can depict the violence in this story without showing it acted out on stage.

In the murder scene, for instance, we might chop up a watermelon which is a very messy business, to illustrate the killing of a character with swords, whilst the actor ‘acts’ being hurt, but no actual violence is shown.

Using two talented musicians and an actor with a sensitive ear allows me to mix sound with music and for the story to be told sometimes almost as a radio play, just with words and sounds.

Exploring Foley sound in the rehearsal room

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WORKING THROUGH DRAMA:

TEACHER CPD AT THE UNICORN

The Pardoner’s Tale teacher CPD day: Monday 18 November.

CPD days at the Unicorn focus on enabling teachers and their pupils to get the most out of their visit to the theatre and to explore ways of linking the play to work in the classroom.

ACTIVITIES FOR THE PARDONER’S TALE CPD WILL INCLUDE:

1) FRIENDSHIP: WHAT MAKES A FRIENDSHIP, WHAT BREAKS A FRIENDSHIP?A PRE-SHOW ACTIVITY

This activity focuses on friendship and is developed to create a connection between the class and the pardoner’s story of The Three Young Men and Death without explaining what will happen or revealing events that are part of the theatre experience. The activity uses Breughel’s painting Children’s Games (below) painted in 1560 as a starting point to explore the dynamics of friendship. Approaches will include: an exploration of Breughel’s Children’s Games through dramatic play; freeze framing to create events; reflective discussion; writing and small group scene-making.

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TEACHER CPD ACTIVITIES CONTINUED…

2) CHAUCER AND THE LANGUAGE OF THE PARDONER’S TALE IN TANGERE’S PRODUCTIONA PRE-SHOW ACTIVITY

The Pardoner’s Tale presents an opportunity to develop understanding of language and how it changes over time. This production uses some of Chaucer’s text, fusing his voice with contemporary English. This activity sets out to engage the class with the language of the play and extend their understanding of language structures.

The activity will include: listening and responding to Chaucerian English and exploring the similarities and differences between contemporary English and Chaucerian English.

3) CREATING NARRATIVE BASED ON MOTTOS, PROVERBS AND MAXIMSA POST SHOW ACTIVITY

The pardoner tells us that every sermon he preaches is based on the same theme: Radix malorum est Cupiditas – the love of money is the root of all evil. Mottos, proverbs and maxims are all ways of encapsulating values, advice and beliefs into memorable phrases. They can suggest literal stories such as don’t count your chickens before they are hatched but the power is in their metaphorical capacity – that they can be applied to events that have nothing to do with the literal meaning.

This activity sets out to develop understanding of how we use proverbs, mottos and maxims in this way. It is a particularly useful activity for students who have English as an additional language as it develops an understanding of the nuances of language that can be challenging for those who are new to English.

The activity includes: developing stories through freeze framing; reflective discussion; role play; storyboarding; writing and book-making.

4) DEVELOPING WAYS OF TELLING USING APPROACHES DRAWN FROM THE PLAYA POST SHOW ACTIVITY

Tangere Arts use Foley techniques during the performance of The Pardoner’s Tale. Foley techniques are used in radio, filmmaking and theatre to create sound effects to add to the audiences’ experience. As part of the performance the actors and musicians use cabbages, bottles and other objects to create sound and atmosphere.

This activity builds on the work on mottos, proverbs and maxims and includes: working in role; developing dialogue; scene-making and using Foley techniques as part of performance.

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RESOURCE PACK WRITTEN BY:

SUSANNA STEELE

DEVELOPED WITH:

CATHERINE GREENWOOD & ELLA MACFADYEN

TANGERE ARTS TEAM:

LEWIS GIBSON – DIRECTOR/COMPOSER/MD

GARY LAGDEN – ACTOR

CHRISTOPHER PREECE – MUSICIAN/PERFORMER

DAVID JOHNSTON – PRODUCER

UNICORNTHEATRE.COM | 020 7645 0544

SEE ABOVE FOR EXCELLENT UNICORN RESOURCES FOR PARDONER’S TALE JAN 16th -31st 2014

 

Dear friends

Welcome to the New Year!

New austerity- New Greed-

 

-New Hopes-New Fears-New Opportunities?

 

Come and see

 

Tangere’s new show-

 

The Pardoner’s Tale

 

at London’s Unicorn Theatre Jan 16th-31st

 

All Best

 

 

DAVID JOHNSTON-TANGERE ARTS

 

See enc flyer  and  below for our teaser trailer lnk

 

 

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vvGm1WMUHR4&feature=youtu.be

 

 

Written, composed and directed by Lewis C Gibson

Actor Gary Lagden

 

16 – 31 JAN 2014

 

FOR AGES 7+

and families friends and even/especially  grannies!

 

Designer Rebecca Hurst

Lighting Designer Ben Pacey

Musicians Hannah Marshall & Christopher Preece

Produced by David Johnston

 

Book online: https://www.unicorntheatre.com/the-pardoners-tale

 

or call 020 7645 0560

 

A Unicorn Theatre and Tangere Arts co-production

Adapted from Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales

Directed and composed by Lewis Gibson

Actor Gary Lagden

 

Tangere Arts are delighted to inform you of their new production,

in partnership with London’s National Theatre for Children and young people

The Unicorn

 

for young pilgrims and families.

 

Please do join us, and our partners at London’s Unicorn Theatre

for an hour of songs, stories and some good old penitence.

 

THE PARDONER’S TALE

COME PILGRIMS COME…

 

Let us introduce you to the Pardoner, a mischievous fellow who has a few theatrical tricks up his sleeve. He’s going to

tell you the simple tale of three men who set out on a journey to get rich quick, a journey that quickly turns sour once

temptation stands in their path.

 

Accompanied by a live score of music, songs and intriguing sound effects created by two on-stage musicians,

Gary Lagden leads Tangere Arts’ latest adaptation – bringing their honest charm and brilliant wit to Chaucer’s

700-year-old tale.

 

Reviews-

 

‘It’s all in the mind’s eye, thrillingly fashioned in Lagden’s physical creation of each individual element of the narrative,

in Greig’s poetic script and in the bittersweet instrumental score and songs.’

 

                                                                     Independent on Tin Soldier                       June 2012

 

…distinctive mix of storytelling, physical theatre and live music…

that always leaves room for the audience to bring

their own imaginations..

 

.                                                               Guardian on    A Thousand Slimy Things     Feb 2013

 

 

Tangere Arts-  Winners of the Offies ( Off West –end Awards)   with “Tin Soldier”  for Best  Production for Young People -2012

 

                                                                   Tel  01629583533   -e-mail admin@tangere-arts.co.uk

 

 

_________________________________________

 

                      

Notes on ” A Thousand Slimy Things-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner “

                                             

Introduction/Background

Tangere Arts has been creating plays and Drama projects for children and young people in schools and theatres since 2003-Our work encompasses a range of curriculum areas, from Theatre in Education (T.I.E) projects in Personal ,Social, and  Health Education, addressing issues such as bullying, racism, Body Language, Sex and Relationship Education, Drugs and Alcohol awareness, through to workshops and projects and plays which stimulate literacy and literary awareness.

In this latter area we have developed a range of projects aimed at complementing the national curriculum in English , and stimulating interest in the written word, especially in poetic form

Our major achievements have been in delivering a number of plays , written by the late Noel Greig, and based on traditional stories, mainly aimed at 7-11 year olds and parents, teachers and families

“Hood in the Wood”,” A Tasty Tale-the true story of Hansel and Gretel”, and “Tin Soldier” based on the story by Hans Christian Anderson, have now been published by Aurora Press, and can be bought from Aurora, or Tangere Arts, as well as accessed on our website.

All Three plays have been performed to great acclaim at Manchester Royal Exchange  and hugely enjoyed by schools, children and families.

They are small -scale , with one or two actors at a maximum, accompanied by live music on stage, with minimal sets and props, intended to stimulate young people’s imaginations  through the power of simple storytelling and poetic language, without extensive visual stimuli.

When Noel Greig died in 2009, the company decided to continue in this vein, by making new work , based on classic poetry, especially in epic and narrative form.

A Thousand Slimy thing-The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, uses Coleridge’s much loved poem as a basis for this .

This piece is aimed at an older age range, aimed initially at 9-13 year olds, but intended also to be of value for older students, who may well be studying the poem, or similar pieces for GCSE, A/S level or A level exams.

Why are we presenting this play/What is it about?

We’re presenting this play because the nice people at Manchester Royal Exchange asked us to do so. We’ve presented 3 plays previously with them, all of which were highly successful. We’ve enjoyed working with their excellent teams, whether in Education, marketing, PR or Front of House/ Box Office. The Royal Exchange asked us if we could follow up the success of Tin Soldier  with a new show for an older age group, to follow up the success of their own “Powder Monkey”, which has entertained and challenged young people for the last 2 years in the summer term, so here we are!

Powder Monkey was a very direct way of looking at issues that challenge young people, and in fact all of us, and very powerful, very direct, very contemporary.

Tangere Arts tend to approach issues more tangentially, using poetry, music, direct address, ands often allegory, to address key themes about the human condition, but also aiming to address those themes directly.

To be honest, part of our motivation came from the constant request from schools and teachers to help them deliver the national curriculum, particularly in English, where pupils from KS2 to KS3 and onwards are obliged to study , and increasingly analyse , a range of poetic forms, including epic poetry , such as this., and especially , bringing it alive, showing the contemporary relevance to young peoples lives.

” Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is now a popular set text, sometimes the most popular set text, for older students in the curriculum.

What fascinated us as a company, as we delved into the text, was the simplicity of the story, a mindless act with severe consequences. It was important, as we studied it last August 2011 , to note that  riots  were taking place inLondon,Birmingham, and indeed inManchester, a city noted for one of the most famous of riots , Peterloo.

We did at first consider looking at the Peterloo riot and massacre as a starting point, but decided eventually to stay with the Coleridge piece, and dig deeper into its examination of the human condition.

Our production, as does the poem, juxtaposes a safe, recognisable situation, a wedding, which everyone can recognise, a celebratory event, an opportunity to relax and indulge, with a tale of misery, guilt and sheer horror.

The thesis of the play, and indeed Coleridge’s poem, is that, underneath the seeming everyday pleasures of a secure society, and a secure lifestyle, lay the potential horrors of doom , destruction, guilt and disaster, and we are never very far away.

A mindless act can transform a happy event , and a happy life, and cause endless pain and destruction, and as we travel along our way, on life’s roller-coaster, we must always be aware of that possibility, and be prepared.

 

Relation to the National English Curriculum

As noted below in the extract from the ITE ( Initial English Teacher) guidelines, it is during the transition from KS 2 to KS 3 that young people need to move from the enjoyment of poetry on an experiential level to studying and analysing structure , theme and content. Hopefully our performance will assist in that task.

-“Extract from the ITE( Initial teacher English) guidelines

see link to homepage http://www.ite.org.uk/index.html

National Curriculum, Strategy and Framework references to poetry

Before moving on, you might want to ensure that you have a clear overview of where poetry is located within curricular frameworks.

Poetry in National Curriculum English
Specific References to Poetry are located the hyperlinked sections listed below. Please be aware that many of the other skills and processes outlined in the National Curriculum (not included) are applicable to a range of genres. It will also be important to explore ways in which speaking, listening, reading and writing can be taught in an integrated way through poetry and to stress the need for student teachers to build on their pupils’ prior knowledge and experiences.

Click on the links below for details of National curricular requirements in reading and writing with regard to poetry in Key Stage 1 and 2.

KS1

KS2

 

click on the links below for details of range and content in reading and writing, as it relates to poetry in Key Stage 3 and 4
KS3

KS4

Poetry in the Primary National Strategy
References to poetry focus on Creating Poetry, Performing Poetry and Reading Poetry. For specific details click on the hyperlink: Poetry in the Primary National Strategy
The Primary Strategy site also includes an extremely useful (and short) document entitled Progression in poetry (DfES 2006) available at www.standards.dfes.gov.uk/primaryframeworks/literacy/planning/Year1/Poetry/resources/
This document recognises that ‘early language playfulness lies at the heart of poetry’ and endorses realistic and creative approaches to teaching the genre which should be accessible to all primary student teachers, including those who are not English specialists. I think it is also a good idea to ask secondary English student teachers to read this document.

Poetry in the Secondary Framework
Apart from broad references to ‘narratives’ and ‘multi modal’ texts, the Framework itself contains no references to specific types of texts. If teachers just consult this document, it could be all too easy for poetry (or other text types) to become neglected. Therefore it will be a vital part of your role, when working with student teachers, to make explicit links to the range and content/curriculum opportunities sections of the National Curriculum through planning activities.

The sample planning and exemplification page of the Secondary Framework English site (at http://www.standards.dcsf.gov.uk/secondary/framework/english/fwg/pufwse/pcs) includes some downloadable examples of medium and long term plans which include poetry. The best example, and one which could be a useful focus in a taught subject session, is case study D. This is centred on works by Chaucer and Blake and includes reading, response, analytical and writing activities.

Mike Fleming notes how poetry becomes more problematic for pupils as they move from an experiential relationship with the genre at primary school to one focused on study it at secondary school (Fleming 1996).

This is an issue that, in my view, you will need to explore with secondary student teachers especially. For secondary pupils, poetry can increasingly be about essays, PEEing (using the format of Point Evidence Explanation) in their written responses to poems and using an anthology selection of poems which has changed little in ten years. I think that the student teachers we work with need to develop a level of criticality about the practices they observe in school and at the same time, develop their own battery of creative approaches for reading and responding to texts. In a post Key Stage 3 SATs era, the 2008 National Curriculum does potentially offer greater creative opportunities for poetry with its focus on playing with language, working with writers, seeking pleasure in reading and exploring texts beyond the classroom. However, the nature of future GCSE assessment frameworks could undermine these new found freedoms. Ironically, the 2008 A level specifications, with their reduced assessment load and greater emphasis on creativity, promote better prospects for engaging with and writing poetry than can be found at GCSE level.”

Tangere Productions-Our values and priorities

 

Our approach to Design

Tangere’s approach to Design has always been minimalist, based on the philosophy of Richard Negri, one of the founders of Manchester Royal Exchange, who always declared that , if a chair would suffice as a set for a play, then a designer should just use a chair. One of his disciples , Bill Mitchell, former designer at the acclaimed Kneehigh Theatre company, and now Director/Designer with the equally acclaimed Wildworks Theatre company, acted as adviser to Tangere in our early days, and as a result our first production, “Hood in the Wood” was based entirely on  the use of 4 red Chairs , and a collection of “weird and wonderful instruments” -as Time Out described them

Our second Production, ”  A Tasty Tale followed , with two chairs on wheels, 2 dustbins and some hand-made bars to create the cage in which Hansel is locked

“Our last Production,”! Tin Soldier” was equally simple, with a range of instruments, two benches, and a range of stools, thus allowing the actor, the musicians , the words, music and the children’s imagination to tell the tale.

“A Thousand Slimy Things” takes a similar approach, using a basic setting for a wedding , with table and chairs , to create the world of a journey across the Seven Seas, and a range of extraordinary spirits and creatures in the audience’s imaginations.

Our approach to Music and sound

 

As with our sets, our approach to music, pioneered by Director and composer ,Lewis Gibson, works at a deceptively simple level , adding songs, tunes , as well as a whole range of atmospherics to any production. While our musicians , such as percussionist Chris Preece, (above) , who features in both “Tin Soldier” and “A Thousand Slimy Things”, is a highly trained and qualified musical graduate, he can also be expected to  play a tiny piano, an accordion, blow bubbles into a bucket, ring handbells in tune,, as well as do a fair bit of acting in any show. As a result , much of our work is akin to the best of Primary school music-making, and often after shows  we have teachers and young people wanting to try them out , and planning to create their own simple versions for the classroom or school play

Our approach to performance

Tangere performers are all highly -trained, and in most cases have a long professional track record. Gary Lagden( featured) was trained at RADA, and has many years of experience. Yet the demands of our work are considerable, involving an ability to act truthfully in close proximity to the audience, especially in Studio Theatres or schools, where most of our work takes place-also , given our deliberate lack of sophisticated sets, costumes or props, the need to use the voice, movement , and the whole body in a “Physical Theatre” style, is most important.

Our actors need to be able to run high quality Drama workshops with large groups, to be able to direct groups of young people, use direct audience address, and a whole range of interactive techniques, as well as create excellent characters and truthful dialogue.

They have to have the ability to be deadly serious one minute, then very silly the next!

Ways in which schools might approach preparation for, and/or follow -up to a visit to our production

  • Readingand Writing/speaking      and listening

These are key areas in both KS 2 and KS 3 English

KS2  suggests pupils should

  • recognise the choice, use and effect of figurative language, vocabulary and patterns of language
  • identify different ways of constructing sentences and their effects
  • identify how character and setting are created, and how plot, narrative structure and themes are developed
  • recognise the differences between author, narrator and character
  • evaluate ideas and themes that broaden perspectives and extend thinking
  • consider poetic forms and their effects
  • express preferences and support their views by reference to texts
  • respond imaginatively, drawing on the whole text and other reading
  • read stories, poems and plays aloud.

We would recommend that a preliminary study of Coleridge’s work, and that of other Victorian poets, such as Shelley, Wordsworth, and Tennyson, another master of epic tales, such as “The Revenge”, and “How Horatius kept the Bridge” would give young readers a sense of these epic tales

Getting a feel for the language, looking at sentence construction, identifying character and setting, plot, narrative structure, and themes, and all the other skills identified above, in a simple way, would all contribute to a preparation and follow-up to a visit to the show

We would recommend that, as much as possible, pupils at KS 2 should be encouraged to read epic poetry as a fun exercise , act out extracts from poems, write their own in very simple terms

bearing in mind the key message:-

 poetry becomes more problematic for pupils as they move from an experiential relationship with the genre at primary school to one focused on study it at secondary school (Fleming 1996).

we would strongly recommend the reading of poems that are fun and relate easily to the pupil’s lives-such mini -epics as Stanley Holloway’s “Albert and The Lion”, Dr Seuss’s “The Lorax” and “Cat in the Hat”, etc, might be an easier introduction to narrative and epic poetry than Coleridge or Tennyson at this stage.

The key issue is to enjoy the reading of these poems, to animate them maybe to act them out, certainly to create sounds, atmosphere, and made music to accompany their telling.

As the students move through KS 3  and onwards to exams with GCSE, A/S and A levels, a more analytical approach to poetry becomes necessary, and it ids hoped that our production may help to bridge that gap

KS3KS3: ReadingRange and   Content: Literature
The range of literature studied should include:

  1.   stories, poetry and drama drawn from different historical times,   including contemporary writers
  2.   texts that enable pupils to understand the appeal and importance   over time of texts from the English literary heritage. This should include   works selected from the following pre-twentieth-century writers: Jane Austen,   Elizabeth Barrett Browning, William Blake, Charlotte Bronte, Robert Burns,   Geoffrey Chaucer, Kate Chopin, John Clare, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, Charles   Dickens, Arthur Conan Doyle, George Eliot, Thomas Gray, Thomas Hardy, John   Keats, John Masefield, Christina Rossetti, William Shakespeare (sonnets),   Mary Shelley, Robert Louis Stevenson, Jonathan Swift, Alfred Lord Tennyson,   HG Wells, Oscar Wilde, Dorothy Wordsworth and William Wordsworth
  3.   texts that enable pupils to appreciate the qualities and   distinctiveness of texts from different cultures and traditions

KS3: Writing

Range and   Content
The forms for such writing should be drawn from different kinds of:

  1.   stories, poems, play scripts, autobiographies, screenplays,   diaries, minutes, accounts, information leaflets, plans, summaries,   brochures, advertisements, editorials, articles and letters conveying   opinions, campaign literature, polemics, reviews, commentaries, articles,   essays and reports.

Curriculum Opportunities
Many of the opportunities referred to in this section will be applicable to   poetry. However, the following three are especially relevant:

  • speak and listen in contexts        beyond the classroom.
  • meet and talk with other        readers and writers wherever possible
  • become involved in events and        activities that inspire reading (such as National Poetry Day)
  • work in sustained and        practical ways with writers where possible to learn about the art, craft        and discipline of writing

 

 

  • Artwork

The  imagery in “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” and other epic poetry  lends itself naturally to various forms of artistic endeavour, not least the drawing , or painting of ships , the sea, the strange images of the “Thousand Slimy Things” that the Mariner recalls. Coleridge’s beautifully crafted verse can act as an excellent stimulus for imaginative artwork, at what ever level pupils can achieve.

  • Music      -making/Sound effects and atmosphere

Tangere’s work in performance always uses music to amplify, underscore, and point up the story of our plays. It may be a useful exercise for a class to take short extracts of the poem, or other epic poems, and create their own simple sounds to show the atmosphere, create the story in their own sounds , as well as in their own words.

  • History      and Geography

Seafaring-

“Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was written at a time when Britannia really did rule the Waves, when our sailing fleets really were the most important parts of our culture. Drake had travelled around the world p[previously, bringing back riches and extraordinary goods , such as tobacco and potatoes , which would have a massive effect on our society , until this day. Our seafaring skills had ensured European supremacy, from the defeat of the Spanish Armada onwards. Our naval supremacy had created the greatest Empire ever known. It was not surprising therefore that the sea and seafaring were at that time still the prime focus of our civilisation.

It may be useful for pupils to look at the history of the 17th, 18th  and early 19th century in brief terms, to recall the importance of the country’s dependence on the sea and sea-faring, to imagine the way in which young people like themselves may have participated, in fact been obliged or press-ganged into participating.

Travellers Tales

For hundreds of years, Travellers Tales had been the main source of new information for people inBritain. Ports, and Seafarers would be the main bringers of new information and new ideas, strange creatures and unusual activities. Shakespeare’s plays refer constantly to the exotic happenings in strange lands. Even as late as the late 18th Century, tales from the sea would be respected and believed. Hence the power that the Ancient Mariner brings with his “Glittering eye”. He would still be the most likely of all people to tell the truth, and offer the same credibility that we would expect today from the BBC, from News night, or Radio 4’s Today programme

Asking students to put themselves in that position, as listeners or speakers, while a seemingly ludicrous tale is told, could be a useful exercise. We constantly hear from foreign correspondents inAfghanistan,Iraq,China, and many other places that we have no experience of. How do we know if they are telling the truth

The Power of Nature/Superstition

The Power of Nature is constantly referred to in Coleridge’s poem-at the time of writing, it must have been all-pervasive in our society, especially when at sea, and when no modern navigation aids, or support from air-rescue was available. As a result, a crew of sailors would inevitably fall back on superstition, their in-built beliefs, their prejudices and their fears. The rapid changing of opinions therefore, when the Mariner shoots the Albatross, is much easier to understand than it would be now, if they could Google for information, or Twitter to their friends.

Equally, the approach of strange and mysterious apparitions at sea become much more understandable, the difficulty of differentiating between reality and the haze of a starvation-induced dream, a fantasy -based trauma being no different from reality, with no way of assessing where the truth lies.

How would pupils differentiate between their reality and fantasy at such moments.

 

  • Religious      Education/Spirituality

It was never really clear how religious Coleridge was-the son of a vicar, who originally planned to go into Holy Orders, he became very involved in the  fashionable life of the day, which very much included the taking of drugs  and loose living. It may be that his constant reference to religion in the poem reflected his own sense of guilt about his own life-it certainly seems that he was , at least , a crazy mixed -up kid, believing partly in the established religion of the Day, Christianity, but also drawn to the more sensuous elements of a more Pagan , older form of belief.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner has sometimes been seen as a struggle between those two aspirations-certainly, cut adrift at sea, it is easy to see how the Mariner struggles between the Christian principles with which he has been imbued, and an older sense of basic need to survive, which both form part of our culture.

The struggle to find some kind of belief, whether Christian, or Pagan , or from another set of belief systems, is therefore central to the morality of the poem, especially when the subject endures a range of traumas in an insecure environment.

As a result, we might want to ask ourselves, with reference to the poem and the piece of theatre,

How do we know what to believe in?

What is the importance of our beliefs?

Do we just believe in our faith, or lack of it?

Or can experience reinforce or challenge our Faith?

Certainly the Wedding Guest  has his beliefs challenged, and certainly he returns to his original beliefs, though very chastened.

“A Sadder and a wiser man

He rose the morrow morn.

In Conclusion

Coleridge’s “Rime of the Ancient Mariner” was hugely popular in its own time , 200 year ago, and remains so today. It has even inspired Heavy Rock musicians, Iron Maiden to create their own version-

 

Why does this popularity endure

Seemingly the story speaks to the human condition very directly, our hopes, our fears, our fantasies, our sense of powerlessness against the forces of nature, and above all our sense of guilt in the face of mindless actions.

The Mariner , like most of us , is a fairly normal person , who ,like most of us, is capable of committing a mindless act, in his case it is shooting an albatross, in our own it might be making an unconsidered criticism of someone, bullying a sibling, cheating on a partner, drinking and driving, lying on oath, or even recently, joining in a riot and stealing a pair of ill-fitting trainers for fun, as happened in August 2011, in London and Manchester.

Mindlessness, and its consequences, are common activities, committed by all of us daily.

To my mind, Rime of the Ancient Mariner remains as a warning to us all that mindfulness, in action, word and thought, is an ideal to be pursued , whenever we can.

David Johnston Tangere Arts

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