The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O! in Reykjavik!

2014-07-16 21.35.51by Candace Barrington

Chaucerians at the NCS Congress in Reykjavik, Iceland, were treated to a multi-media production of Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey-O! on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 at the Tjarnarbíó across from City Hall. (At left, Jonathan Hsy, Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo, and Candace Barrington,)

The production begins with a live performance of Overo-Tarimo’s dramatic adaptation of The General Prologue set in Nigeria and draws on African folk traditions of storytelling intermingled with music, drums, and gossip. Once the storytelling framework is established, the production moves to a filmed adaptation of The Millers Tale.  Overo-Tarimo had planned to use live actors in this segment–just as she had in her production at Edinburgh’s 2012 Fringe Festival. Because, however, key Nigerian actors were unable to secure visas, she shot a pilot film of the play in Nigeria.

Overo-Tarimo’s adaptation of The Miller’s Tale incorporates many explicit Nigerian elements. As she explains,

“Nigeria as a nation is made up of many tribes and I try to reflect this reality in the various characters. For example, Abusolon’s character is from the North of Nigeria who has moved to Ibadan in the West of Nigeria to start a new life. As a refugee, he is particularly sensitive because of the massacre experience of his family and village in the North where traumatic killings have taken place and still happening.  Hence, security is one of the most challenging issues for the country with the rise of Boko Haram and other terrorists groups. His dream is to eventually move abroad to the UK or US, where he believes all his problems will be solved. In t he meantime, he falls in love with Alice, who taunts and rejects his love and adds to his torment. Nikori is from the same Urhobo tribe as the carpenter; hence, he enjoys partial treatment and is implicitly trusted by the carpenter. … “Julie you too like money” is a stereotypical reference to Julie’s [a servant in Carpenter John’s household] Igbo tribe, who are known to be industrious, and Alice’s love of dressing and partying is reference to her Yoruba tribe’s uwambe ‘good time’ associations. Rabiu [another servant] is from Akwa Ibom, a tribe known for their domestic hard work and loyalty.”

The songs of Abusolon/Absolon are based on Nigerian styles. The dialogue is conducted in a mixture of Nigerian Pidgin English and the Queen’s English, thereby establishing social divisions and enlivening the comedy.  Nikori/Nicholas, the university student who seduces Alice/Alisoun, uses a form of black magic, a cultic practice associated in Nigeria with some universities. Throughout, the bane of Nigerian urban life–the blackout–weaves its way through the tale, ultimately providing the context for the misdirected kiss and Abusolon’s retribution.

The cast in both the live and the filmed portions reflect the production’s international flavor. Hailing from Nigeria, Britain, and Iceland, they made Overo-Tarimo’s The Miller’s Tale: Wahala Dey O! a global Chaucer.

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(At left, Candace and Jonathan with the cast from the live production.)

Polyglot Reading of The Miller’s Tale

10523345_10202678190939844_3058271171990410868_nby Candace Barrington

The Polyglot Reading of Chaucer’s The Miller’s Tale turned out to be my favorite NCS event. Held at the University of Iceland’s Stúdentakjallarinn, it brought together 14 Chaucerians reading in 14 modern languages (plus a bit of Middle English introducing the tale), providing the audience with a lively multilingual interpretation of Chaucer’s tale.  The line numbers, languages, and readers are

  • 3170-3186, Middle English, Candace Barrington
  • 3187-3232, Emily Steiner
  • 3233-3270, Mandarin, Jonathan Hsy
  • 3271-3338, Danish, Ebbe Klitgård
  • 3339-3396, Turkish, Nazmi Ağil
  • 3397-3447, Japanese, Koichi Kano
  • 3448-3500, Russian, Liza Strakhov
  • 3501-3554, Polish & German, Sebastian Sobecki
  • 3555-3610, Spanish, Alberto Lázaro
  • 3611-3670, French, Juliette Dor
  • 3671-3726, Korean, Donghill Lee
  • 3727-3782, Icelandic, Sif Rikhardsdottir
  • 3783-3839, Czech, Alfred Thomas
  • 3840-3854, Italian, David Wallace

To listen to the reading, go to http://youtu.be/RxNy0M0lXBo . The audio recorder was not as expert as the readers, so please be patient with the quality!  Also know that you’re missing a real treat by not being able to see the readers in action.

Watch this website for a script of the reading in all 14 languages!

A special thanks to Sif Rikharksdottir for arranging all the logistics.  Without her help and guidance, the reading could not have happened.

Finally, MANY THANKS to our readers who stepped out of their comfort zone for the reading.  I hope the audience’s enthusiastic response more than compensated for their bravery!

 

Update on Ufuoma Overo-Tarimo’s production of The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O.

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by Candace Barrington
Because Ms Overo-Tarimo was unable to obtain necessary visas for her actors, there will not be a live performance of her acclaimed adaptation of The Miller’s Tale. Instead, Chaucerians will be treated to an exclusive showing of her film version of the play on Wednesday, 16 July, at 7:00, immediately after the Reception hosted by the mayor. The screening will take place at Tjartnabio, a theatre building opposite City Hall (the site of the reception).
Seating is limited to 160, so I advise you to purchase your tickets as soon as possible. Tickets are available online or at the door for ISK 2500 apiece.
To learn more about The Miller’s Tale: Wahala-Dey-O and its fascinating origins and its storied production history, please see my earlier blog posting.