London, Dec. 16: The BBC is making a modern version of The Canterbury Tales, transplanting Chaucer’s medieval stories to a world of asylum seekers, reality television and botox injections.
The ambitious £3 million drama series will tackle six of the 24 stories told by Chaucer’s disparate group of pilgrims as they travel from London to Thomas a Becket’s shrine in Canterbury.
The project marks a new departure in the BBC’s determination to ensure that its period dramas are “relevant” to a modern audience.
While past adaptations of classic works such as Thackeray’s Vanity Fair and Trollope’s The Way We Live Now have sought to emphasise the timelessness of characters such as Becky Sharp and Augustus Melmotte, the BBC remained true to their period settings.
The corporation stressed that while its latest adaptation will not religiously follow the plots and characters of Chaucer’s work — and certainly not its medieval language — they will remain true to its “themes”. Unlike the original tales, each of the stories will be set along the route taken by the pilgrims.
The Man of Law’s Tale related the story of Constance, an Emperor’s daughter, who married a Sultan and converted him to Christianity only to be set adrift in a boat on the orders of her jealous mother-in-law. The BBC’s version will take up the same themes of religion, faith and bigotry but this time the heroine will be a devoutly religious Nigerian asylum seeker who turns up in a small boat in Chatham Docks.
The licentious, domineering and five-times married main character in The Wife of Bath’s Tale will be a slave to botox injections in her quest for eternal youth.
As Chaucer’s bawdiest story, The Miller’s Tale is perhaps an unsurprising inclusion. The original story about the cuckolding of an Oxford carpenter will this time be played out by the celebrity-obsessed regulars at the karaoke night of a Kent pub.