Fiona Shaw's Rime of the Ancient Mariner is 'riveting'

Phyllida Lloyd's staging of Coleridge's Gothic tale is a poetry recital with a difference

LAST UPDATED AT 07:36 ON Fri 11 Jan 2013

What you need to know
Actress Fiona Shaw is performing Samuel Taylor Coleridge's epic poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner at the Old Vic Tunnels with dancer Daniel Hay-Gordon. The production is directed by Phyllida Lloyd (Mama Mia, The Iron Lady) with choreography by Kim Brandstrup.

Coleridge's eerie ballad of horror and redemption, written in 1798, tells the story of a sailor who suffers a terrible curse after killing an albatross at sea, and is condemned to relive the experience by recounting it to a stranger.

Until 13 January at the Old Vic Tunnels, near Waterloo Station.

What the critics like
Phyllida Lloyd's production showcases the "strength, clarity, musicality, physicality and emotional commitment" of Fiona Shaw, says Donald Hutera in The Times. Shaw is not just telling the mariner's tale, she lives it "with an incandescent intensity that approaches the heroic".

This is a poetry recital with a difference, says Sarah Hemming in the Financial Times. Shaw is a compelling performer who buttonholes your attention with her evident relish for the text. It's "a riveting, virtuoso performance", at its eeriest and most powerful with just "a couple of props and the human voice to bring Coleridge's poem alive".

Here's an elegant thing to do before eight o'clock dinner, says Ismene Brown on Artsdesk. "Stroll out for an hour's recital of a rollicking story-poem done by a leading actress in a hip underground venue."

What they don't like
Shaw is rightly known for her "dazzling" ability to bring poetry to the stage, says Paul Taylor in The Independent. But this show seems more like an artful  "demonstration" of the poem than a convincing journey to hell and back. · 

For further concise, balanced comment and analysis on the week's news, try The Week magazine. Subscribe today and get 6 issues completely free.