Archive for January, 2013

“Do you fancy coming?” I asked Old Friend at Work.

“To what?”

“Fiona Shaw doing “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”.”

“OK. That sounds good – is it just her?”

“No, I think there’s a male dancer in it as well.”


And so it was that I went to the Old Vic Tunnels last night to see Ms. Shaw in the poem on my own – which is fine: there are relatively few people who┬áI am happy to have at the theatre with me, as I can’t really be bothered with either the enforced post performance analysis or (more pertinently) ANY DISSENSION WHATSOEVER FROM MY OPINIONS.

Well: it was great. Not as great as “The Waste Land” – but I think that’s down to the poem, more than anything else (and at the time, the performance of “The Waste Land” at Wilton’s Music Hall was so original as to (probably) have acquired a sheen of brilliance that might be over and above the actual event). Fiona Shaw was – aptly – at her least theatrical and her most focused, and so it was a thrilling performance in a wonderfully evocative location: the smell of water and damp and the rumbling of the trains overhead adding a huge amount to the experience. She was absolutely on her game: no excess, no flourishes – I wonder if poetry, its meter and its bite makes it harder to take liberties that one might with another kind of text (even the parts of Shakespeare that are in poetry)? And – even better – given the nagging worry that Old Friend at Work had planted in my mind, the dancer was equally restrained and focused. Used sparingly and to great effect, rather than (as if thrilled by his mere presence the director had vowed to wring every last atom of meaning, reference and emotion out of him) over-using him, and thus ending up with one of those ghastly University performances wherein one performer (in a lone spotlight – always) earnestly intones “The Smiths” lyrics, whilst another (blindfolded, always) writhes on the floor as if having a fit and then, finally, and to elevate the whole sorry enterprise to the status of art, gets naked.

I don’t know that it will stay with me as “The Waste Land” has, but I was properly mesmerised throughout and will re-read the poem this weekend: which is probably as great a testament to the thing as one could expect.

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