Zadie Smith's first play brings Chaucer to his lover in North West London

Smith translated Chaucer’s Middle English into a vernacular she called “Weezian of the North,” and his “wife from Willesden” is Alvita, a...


Smith translated Chaucer’s Middle English into a vernacular she called “Weezian of the North,” and his “wife from Willesden” is Alvita, a British woman of Jamaican descent in her fifties who adorns herself in fake chains in gold, wears Jimmy Choo fake heels and speaks in a mixture of slang and London dialect. Its history takes the form of Jamaican folklore, which takes place in the 18th century. Like her mother, Alvita has also been married five times and isn’t afraid to speak her mind.

In an exchange with her nun Aunt P about sex and religion, Alvita tells her: “It’s true that Paul said / He didn’t want us to have sex for fun – / But it wasn’t. like: commandment number one. / Aunt, what you call laws, I call advice.

Referring to her character, Clare Perkins, who plays Alvita, said, “She longs for personal happiness.”

“She’s always reinventing herself and she’s still here, in the middle of her life,” added Perkins.

The transformation of Alyson of Bath into Alvita of northwest London was not, for Smith, a significant leap. In his introduction to the script, which was posted by Penguin this month she wrote “Alyson’s voice – brash, honest, cheeky, salacious, scandalous, without excuse – is a voice I’ve heard and loved all my life: in apartments, at school , in the lessons of my childhood, then in the pubs of my maturity.

Smith doesn’t seem to think too much about the importance of North West London in his work. “If you grew up near the streets, it just means something to you,” Smith said. “It wasn’t an intention when I started, but there’s just something about the neighborhood. It really entertains me.

While the play is in a sense a celebration of the setting, for Rubasingham it is also about acknowledging the hardships the region endured during the pandemic.

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Newsrust - US Top News: Zadie Smith's first play brings Chaucer to his lover in North West London
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