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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

In Context: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

Photo: Fiona Shaw, courtesy of Phyllida Lloyd

The Rime of the Ancient Mariner runs at BAM through December 22. Context is everything, so get even closer to Coleridge's famous ill-fated ocean voyage, the amazing Fiona Shaw, and more with this curated selection of articles, videos, and original blog pieces related to the show. For those of you who've already seen it, help us keep the conversation going by telling us what you thought below.

From BAM

Excerpt from The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (BAM Video Channel)
Watch and listen to this animated reading of part of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, assembled from submissions to our Record Your Rime project.

Record Your Rime: A BAM Poetry Project (BAM Blog)
Add your reading of Rime to our exciting crowd-sourcing project.

Rime—Casting Nets and Spells (BAM Blog)
"Audiences still love the direct connection of the unmediated human voice," says Fiona Shaw.
Fiona Shaw Reads Eliot, Yeats, and Patti Smith (BAM Blog)
Shaw lends her Irish brogue to The Waste Land and other poems.

Are You As Smart As A High Schooler?: Rime Edition (BAM Blog)
Ponder these Rime-related questions, taken from our Rime of the Ancient Mariner study guide.

Around the Web

In Performance: Fiona Shaw of The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (The New York Times)
Shaw recites the pivotal moment of Coleridge's poem.

Fiona Shaw's New York (The L Magazine)
The actress reveals her favorite places to drink, dine, shop, and relax.

Fiona Shaw on The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (
Shaw wanted something that would help her jogging—and ended up memorizing a 626-line poem.

“Fiona Shaw: I’m Not Frightened of Hard Words” (The Guardian)
“Poetry is the formal way of expressing what's really unsayable," Shaw says.

Portrait of the Artist: Fiona Shaw (The Guardian)
Fiona Shaw in brief: philosopher-poet, frustrated painter, lover of The Sound of Music.

Samuel Taylor Coleridge (
The poet dreamed of setting up a commune on the banks of Pennsylvania’s Susquehanna River.

Revel in Coleridge’s rhymes before Fiona Shaw takes the stage.

Worthwhile Words

Fiona Shaw:
I'm not at all frightened of hard words, I just get excited by them. That's not an intellectual thing – we live in such an anti-intellectual age, I've got to say that. […] It's much more about my terror that I'm not in touch enough with feeling—and that poems put me in touch with feelings I might not otherwise get a chance, in this short life, to feel.

Now Your Turn...

So what's your verdict? Thoughts on bird-related punishments on the high seas? Fiona Shaw's energetic performance? Public recitations of poetry in the modern age? Once you've seen the show, tell us what you thought in the comments below.


  1. It was brilliant. Fiona Shaw engaged with the audience, people were engrossed, there was hardly a cough. The notes sent out beforehand were extremely helpful. Reading it at school it was just a lesson but last night I thoroughly enjoyed the experience. I hope BAM will consider putting on more "poetry readings". Thank you.

  2. Outstanding! One of the best concepts I've seen in recent times! Fiona Shaw gave an amazing reading - it was truly mesmerizing! At the same time the "pantomime" of Hay-Gordon was brilliantly executed - his portrayal of "albatross" was fantastic! I'm so glad to know that there are still "modern" productions out there that can bring out the best of classical literature without "dumbing-down".

  3. I have followed Fiona Shaw's work since her transcendental performance approx 25 years ago as Electra in the basement of the Barbican.At the present performance some things were unclear to me including the pantomine of the trying on of the 2 hats and the final audience member pulled into the stance of the Mariner..... there was also a feeling of frenetic activity which gave one no time to savour the poem......the speech to me is everything....however a day later I now believe i understand more clearly some of the stage activity that initially to me seemed indeterminate...FS stretches the envelope,and I am glad of it...however sometimes she should believe more fully in HER ability to transmit the plain spoken and metaphysical word.....that is her magic.

  4. We greatly enjoyed the production. Ms. Shaw's voice was mesmerizing and the movements were graceful and energetic. But above all, the poem was timeless. Thank you for the production.

  5. We loved the production! The set, props, use of a dancer, and truly excellent acting by Fiona Shaw was the highlight of our week. My partner is a theater teacher, and we both agreed that this would be a prime example of understanding and committing to text. Really wonderful.

  6. Fiona Shaw illuminated the text of the poem in her inimitable way with the help of the mimetic dance of her skilled partner and the simple graphics of the pole as walking stick, broken mast, and so on; the light shadow play, and boat as puppet, all used with subtlety and grace, though the voice of Fiona Shaw above all granulated the textures and brought all into bas-relief.

  7. Sometimes I felt that there was too much production for the size of this piece. I could've listened to Ms. Shaw speak the text alone on a stage in a spotlight. I think that even as a radio play this could have been incredibly successful. The scenery was beautifully wrought but I found the "search" for the second actor unnecessary and a little overly-clever. It didn't enhance Ms. Shaw's connection to the audience. That happened immediately as she began to speak the verse. Mr.Hay-Gordon however, is a lovely dancer, and the shadow work was beautiful. I would buy a ticket to watch Fiona Shaw read the telephone directory. She is truly a gem of a performer.

  8. I loved the performance! I thought the second presence on the stage very effective. Having loved the poem since childhood, ten years or so ago I set out to memorize it; since then I've been working to keep it memorized. I've been living with this poem and had been considering making a public recitation of some sort. Ms. Shaw has relieved me of that necessity. Thank you!