The Rap Canterbury Tales

Chaucer's wit and playful rhymes come to life as a lyrical battle, featuring the Miller, the Pardoner and the Wife of Bath

archive review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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115270 original
Published 18 Aug 2007
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102793 original
At one point in The Rap Canterbury Tales Baba Brinkman injects a personal touch, revealing the ideological driving force of his mission to renew Chaucer’s classic for the modern audience. In a rap which purports to tell 500,000 years of history in five minutes, Baba runs through mankind's physical, linguistic and literary development.

Bar one moment of artistic license, The Rap Canterbury Tales sticks remarkably close to the original whilst adroitly bringing it into a more contemporary context. Introduced in the midst of a hip-hop concert, the narrator manages to sneak onto a tour bus where the rappers start a story-based battle rap.

Brinkman displays a masterful grasp of rhyme and rhythm, his lyricism winding through the murky language of Chaucer and slang of hip-hop. Retaining the same awareness of the nuances of language that made the original so shocking six hundred years ago, Brinkman’s control of pace and diction creates a delivery that would easily hold its own on a concert stage.

The Rap Canterbury Tales remains listed as theatre because of Brinkman's energetic physical display, which brilliantly captures the character of each of the storytellers, including the riotously inebriated Miller. As he bounces around the stage to portray the varying personas, it is clear that this is more than the typical crotch-grabbing bling performance of rappers.

With a title that inspires both intrigue and suspicion The Rap Canterbury Tales manages to pull off a task that has proved elusive for others. Brinkman’s display is impressive, not the least because he has an hour of non-stop monologue to remember. Successful in paying homage to the lyricist of old he manages to create a musical experience with comedy that will sate even the most highbrow of appetites.