at Summerhall, Tuesday 14th August 2012
‘Circus’ is always a word which brings up mixed feelings when attached to theatre; is it really necessary or are the performers just showing off. Personally, I think circus can and should be used to make more exciting, multi-layered theatre, but frequently the use of acrobatics in theatre can be counter-productive and gimmicky. Fortunately, Rime, which retells Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner through the use of circus and dance, is a piece where this isn’t the case, and the story is presented in a way which both excites and illuminates.
At first, it seems like Square Peg Contemporary Circus may be using the show merely as a means to demonstrate their mind-boggling skills, as the central scaffold and poles are somewhat overused, with very little focus on plot, but soon a rhythm is found and choice quotes are selected during the most important bits of Coleridge’s poem as the company recreates moments “using [their] bodies”.
It’s a good choice of text for this kind of adaptation, seeing as most of it is set on a boat, making the large poles and rig understandable. The rhythms of Coleridge’s poetry are also well mirrored by the to-ing and fro-ing of the actors and the nautical soundtrack supports some slick dances. The spectacle of circus techniques fits the source material due to its many set-pieces, but it does feel a little that some of the pathos which Coleridge includes is lost.
At some points, the narrative is also lost, though perhaps this isn’t too much of an issue seeing as Square Peg have changed the title and have decided to represent the feeling behind the original rather than the thing itself. Putting circus skills in contexts like this gives us a new way of looking out them and raises the stakes, seeing as we care about both the character and the performer. In the future, we’ll hopefully see more productions like Rime; the more circus, narrative and language mix like this, the more audiences can relate to productions on multiple levels and the normal confines of ‘theatre’ can begin to be broken down on a large scale.