Since becoming a literary sensation as a student at Cambridge, Zadie Smith has grown into one of the world's brightest writing talents. The White Teeth author is known for her vibrant novels and eloquent essays – and now Smith is venturing into theatre and penning her debut play.
The Wife of Willesden brings Chaucer's mediaeval Canterbury Tales into contemporary Brent. The play is an ode to northwest London, which Smith is writing as a gift for her home borough. And fittingly, it will premiere in the exact area where it is set, at Kilburn's newly re-vamped Kiln Theatre.
Though the role of creative writing professor at New York University has taken Smith far away from her corner of London, she remains loyal to NW postcodes. Kilburn, Willesden and Queen's Park loom large in her prose (especially in 2012 novel NW), forming a colourful clash of cultures and class.
Chaucer's Wife of Bath, the worldly heroine who shares stories of her wide travels and five different husbands, comes to life as a modern woman living in Willesden. The play synopsis, written in verse, describes a woman who 'plays many roles round here/ And never scared to tell the whole of her truth, whether or not anyone wants to hear it.' now she is 'pissed enough to tell her life story to whoever has ears and eyes…’
With her extravagant tastes, streetwise smarts and keen sense of sexual bargaining, Chaucer's 'wife' is one of the richest characters in the literary canon. She offers fascinating scope for contemporary reinvention, and Smith is a master of making a classic story into something altogether fresher (2005 novel On Beauty is a re-telling of EM Forster's Howards End).
Indhu Rubasingham, head of the Kiln Theatre, was due to direct this world premiere in autumn 2020. The production has been postponed until 2021, with exact dates TBD.
|What||The Wife of Willesden, Kiln Theatre|
|Where||Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, London, NW6 7JR | MAP|
|Nearest tube||Kilburn High Road (overground)|
|Price||£15 - £32.50|
|Website||Click here for more information and to book|