By Sasha Meaney
Theatre collective Little Eggs has found a recipe for success: take old, culturally ingrained narratives of mythic proportions and spin them into stunningly devised, tight ensemble shows with contemporary themes that are a feast for the senses. They did it last year in the critically acclaimed Pinocchio, and they’ve done it again this year for The Rime of the Ancient Mariner.
Not only does the content of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic ballad fit the brief but his ethos seems to be at work in this stage adaptation. Inspired by Nature and Man, he had an addiction for the “sublime” - overwhelming beauty that prompts deep and meaningful contemplation.
What I would give to see Coleridge in that front row, probably on something, clapping his hands with child-like glee at the consummate spectacle and clever theatre his words inspired.
The design of the show is impeccable. Played out in a sandbox, the lack of sea is made up for with clever lighting and the physicality of the crew effectively evoking its temposity. Plastic props are animated by the crew, but when they’ve fulfilled their purpose they become waste that pollutes the sand. The design’s effect is more impressive knowing that 90% has been sourced from recycled, sustainable and repurposed materials - evidencing the production’s painstaking attention to process and detail.
The ensemble’s physicality and musical abilities are placed at the forefront of the show and give the text new immersive life, pushing the audience’s expectations of what is possible in theatre. The ensembles harmonies that underscore the show completely wash over you, and there is a welcome high energy sea shanty filled with comedy and sailors’ bravado. Inventive use of instruments, like kazoos and ukuleles are both practical given the small space they are working in but also delightful fun.
The support and camaraderie amongst the nine performers fills the space, convincingly portraying the physical crew as well as the Mariner’s torment. As a troupe, their shared inhuman level of focus unfalteringly drives the show. Performers are given roles that break away, highlights including Nicole Pingon’s dance as the albatross or Mike Ugo and Laura Wilson’s haunting partner work as Death and Life-in-Death, and then seamlessly woven back into the ensemble ship.
Initially, it felt that Coleridge's wordy ballad was competing with the other aural elements producing some discordance. This was rectified halfway, when the ballad’s words were spoken alone, given space to breathe and be truly affecting with Nicholas Papademetriou’s commanding oration. As the Mariner, Papademetriou has a charismatic presence - his voice is strong and rich, and it’s timbre captures the Mariner’s human frailty. With only mild aggression in his vindication, the Mariner’s unhappy acceptance of fate is helpless and heartbreaking.
Little Egg’s treats their audience intelligently, prompting questions through imagery rather than aggressive messaging. Without spoiling it, the final image of the albatross is unflinchingly contemporary in contrast to a show of other worldly magic. It stands the door a jar to today’s politics but goes no further, just skimming the surface of murky waters.The experience can only be described as sublime.
Little Eggs’ The Rime of the Ancient Mariner runs until Saturday the 13th of April 2019 and is being put on in association with JackRabbit Theatre as a part of their Hi-Jacked Rabbit season. Further information on the production can be found here. Tickets can be purchased here.
Photo Credit: Brett Boardman
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.