4 star review of ‘The Mariner’ Common Ground’s latest production – coming 26 OctPosted on 16th October 2018
Samuel Taylor Coleridge is probably as much remembered by the general public today for his troubled life and opium addiction as for his verse and association with Wordsworth’s circle. Of his poetry, the most likely to be known is The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, a chilling timeless sea-farers’ tale cast in a deliberately antique format. In Pat Whymark’s new play – The Mariner – she weaves her own and Emily Bennett’s music, sets The Rime into a biographical narrative.
Richard Lounds makes Coleridge into a slightly cherubic, perpetually juvenile figure, forever wanting more from life and relationships than is feasible. Eloise Kay, who has an excellent singing voice, plays his long-suffering wife Sarah.
From the beginning of their marriage, Coleridge seems to have seen their partnership as one in which he made all the rules. Sarah was supposed to rear their children, keep house without a regular income, act as his inspiration – and follow him up to the Lakes as a full member of Wordsworth’s coterie.
The opposite sort of woman is personified by Bennett’s Mrs Bainbridge, Coleridge’s non-nonsense London landlady and Wordsworth’s devoted, free-spirited sister Dorothy. Coleridge’s equally-addicted friend Thomas De Quincey, himself engaged in a love-hate relationship with Wordsworth’s circle, is sharply personified by Anthony Pinnick.
Whymark presents this chronicle in a series of exchanges between Coleridge, Mrs Bainbridge, Sarah, De Quincey, the Wordsworth siblings and finally with the doctors who offer to manage his addiction.
The thread upon which this string of faceted beads is strung is The Rime itself. Julian Harries’ recitation is glossed by Coleridge’s own prose annotations; between them they make the familiar, often parodied poem as chilling as its author intended.
By Anne Morley-Priestman, Headgate Theatre, Colchester.