By re-telling Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s epic poem as a sequence of songs, composer and pianist Geoff Page has certainly chosen an ambitious project.
Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner is the tale of a sailor who sets off on a voyage with fellow crew members in good weather, only for them to fall into difficulties. The mariner then shoots an albatross that was leading them out of the mist thereby bringing a curse upon the crew.
Unfortunately, instead of bringing the poem to life Page’s composition and bass singer Tim Hardy’s complete lack of emotion sucks the life right out of one of greatest poetic works in the English language.
This is described as a musical drama, and indeed in the programme Page insists (somewhat delusionally) that he thinks his Ancient Mariner can be every bit as dramatic and mesmerising as a West End show with a £10 million budget. Of course, low budget productions can far exceed the brassy big ones, but they do this with excellent acting and direction. Having a man stand on a badly lit stage singing, often quite slowly, a piece of eighteenth century poetry with little emotion and all the wrong inflections can hardly be described as dramatic.
While some of Geoff Page’s piano playing is quite enjoyable to listen to, Coleridge’s poetry, though left largely unchanged is smothered by the music and Hardy’s dull deliverance.