An energetic troupe of dancers and acrobats transformed Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem Rime of The Ancient Mariner into extraordinary displays of dance and gravity-defying stunts, captivating a Cambridge audience instantly.
The poem’s rich, evocative text -- transformed with circus, music and drama into physical narrative by Square Peg Contemporary Circus at The Junction 2 on 30 April -- made up the minimal dialogue linking dynamic routines accompanied by dramatic music and lighting which vividly portrayed events on the ill-fated ship; the story acting as a springboard for extended displays of breathtaking acrobatics bursting with ideas and imagination.
Rime does full justice to the 18th century poet’s classic, successfully transposing it from literary to performance art with spectacular results. The mariner was not as ancient as the poem’s title suggests but this intensely physical production demanded a cast in peek condition. He was a clown and ring master, introducing the tale as the most famous except for Shakespeare, The Jungle Book or Harry Potter as the rest of the cast handed apples to spectators young and old in a packed auditorium.
The pace and style of the show shifted constantly from graceful solo performances to tightly choreographed full cast dance routines. Most impressive were the aerial gymnastics in which performers climbed poles and ropes effortlessly then twisted and turned in all directions before free falling from the ceiling and suddenly stopping inches above the ground.
The mariner did not dominate the show but was distinguished by the range of his performance. He moved with the grace of a ballet dancer one moment and fell from the tightrope with the clumsiness of the Chuckle Brothers the next. Despite the production’s magical, unworldly style he was portrayed as a very human protagonist. His killing of the albatross at the climax of an impassioned dance identified him as a man driven to acts of foolishness and greed by natural emotions enabling the audience to relate to his need for redemption.
Some of the children watching may not have followed the story but they were spellbound by the incredible circus skills whilst for older members it was unforgettable poetry in motion that defied all expectations.