Monday, 6 July 2009

Samuel, Skeletons, and Swine Flu

Last Saturday, on the south bank of the river Thames, I settled down to watch a performance of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner:

It is an ancient Mariner,
And he stoppeth one of three.

"By thy long grey beard and glittering eye,

Now wherefore stopp'st thou me?

I first read Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem when I was ten. The only lasting memory I have of it is the line ‘Water, water everywhere/ Nor any drop to drink’. Quite a pathetically scant memory to have of my first encounter with one the best loved poems of the Romantic period. I can’t blame it on the teachers, they were fantastic, but it’s a long poem to learn to love at ten, especially when you are reading it to yourself. But had I participated in an all singing, all dancing performance of The Ancient Mariner like this one, I’m sure I’d have remembered at least the poem’s story. The primary school children who took part in this south bank performance, I know will remember more than one solitary line.

The performance, which was a co-production between The South Bank Centre and The Young Vic, incorporated dance, acting, music and a wonderful huge marionette skeleton. It was clear a huge amount of time, preparation and effort had gone into this hour and a half performance. The music was brilliant, the conductor had the children exactly where she wanted them and the whole space around was used. There was flag waving, flare lighting and an ice-cream van – why not?! But the only thing that I found a little disappointing was that the Ancient Mariner was reading from a script. At the time I thought this a little tardy, but then, when googling the performance, I read it was because swine flu had hit the actor cast for the part and a replacement had to be found at the last minute, so all was forgiven. Get well soon, Ancient Mariner.

London Literature Festival runs 2nd-16th July.

Posted by Hannah

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