Albatross

Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s Romantic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner already exists as a work of enviable length. So it is quite something that writers Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett have managed to extend the tale of the mariner and the albatross further in this play of approximately ninety minutes. Despite having a fairly long run time for a Fringe production, this piece zips by due to its combination of masterful storytelling, beautifully simple yet visually stunning effects, and an acting performance of real quality and stamina-induced intensity by Evett himself.

It is Evett’s tour de force performance which is the real champion.

For anyone familiar with the original, the back story provided here surrounding the family life of the mariner fits remarkably well. The play is framed as being the true, unrefined version of the tale which has undergone a certain softening and moderation by Coleridge in his quest to fit a particular lyrical form. Evett as the eponymous mariner cuts a suitably unrefined and offensive figure, a true sailor of bygone times, and a natural raconteur; the truthfulness of his performance makes the entire spectacle truly absorbing.

This production elevates itself beyond simply seeking to fill in the gaps left by Coleridge. As satisfying as the story element of the piece undoubtedly is, the writers have also succeeded in making this text speak to our own age. The timeless nature of the Mariner ensures that he is able to speak with authority on matters of our time. His references to modern sea tragedies and, most pertinently, to humankind’s catastrophic effect on the earth’s seas, are particularly thought-provoking and evocative. With videos projected onto the imposing sails which deck out much of the stage space, Albatross delivers the ‘Ancient’ rhyme confidently to its modern audience.

Although this is an adaptation of the poem, Coleridge’s original language is afforded due respect, and appears in fragments throughout the piece, serving to anchor the various stages of the mariner’s tale in place, and ensures that the spirit of the poem remains intrinsically wedded to the play. While arguably the piece might be shortened slightly, with its opening perhaps the weakest part as the character is established, it is Evett’s tour de force performance which is the real champion. He brings depth and heart to the mariner, rarely pausing for breath – long may this continue as the tale must, as we well know, be retold for generations to come.

Reviews by Joshua Clarke

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Performances

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The Blurb

The Mariner has wandered the earth for 300 years. Now he draws you to a theatre at the Fringe to share his ghostly tale. This award-winning solo performance, using state of the art multimedia technology, takes off from Coleridge’s masterpiece The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, telling the real story behind the poem – complete with sea battles, storms, ice-bound ships and a mystical seabird that reveals the interconnectedness of all living things. Thrilling, hilarious, terrifying and profound, Albatross speaks urgently about contemporary themes of human indifference and our responsibility to our planet. ‘Spellbinding’ (WBUR).

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