n Good Friday, veteran arts critic Richard Morrison dedicated his weekly column in The Times to our re-imagining of Piers Plowman. ‘Tom Chivers,’ he writes, ‘has spent four years thinking about how to popularise a 14th-century poem that is, as he rightly says, so ‘incalculably complex’ that it bamboozles many Middle-English specialists, let alone ordinary poetry fans such as me.’ He goes on:
[Piers Plowman] is ranked alongside The Canterbury Tales as the greatest literary achievement of medieval England.
It’s a deeply allegorical theological text and multi-layered social satire – an unfulfilled quest for truth in a flawed world, in which an everyman called Will is guided by the mysterious Christ-like figure of a quintessential English agricultural labourer, Piers Plowman.
Chivers has come up with another way to introduce Piers Plowman to a wider audience. He has devised a show called Fair Field … Langland’s words will co-exist with those of contemporary dramatists, and his overarching themes will resonate afresh in a 21st-century context.
It’s fantastic to see how Piers Plowman already entering into the public conversation at a time when we are facing social, political and economic change. As Morrison puts it:
There’s been so much hot air in the past year about what it means to be British. Here’s an ancient poem that captures the timeless tensions and delights of living on these unruly, contrary, sceptical isles.
You can read the whole piece here (full article available Times subscribers only).