Albatross – Smock Alley – Review
“Water, water, every where,
Nor any drop to drink.”
Find out more about Albatross here.
All Photos by Andrew Brilliant
As you may have guessed, this piece is inspired by The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, which was written by English poet Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and published in 1798. The poem tells the story of a mariner who is on board a boat that is lost at sea. The crew see an albatross that seems to guide them towards safer waters. This version of the story tells the ‘real’ account of his actions, we see the Mariner before he sets out on board the boat and also when he returns to land.
This production is a one-man show, performed by Benjamin Evett who also co-wrote the piece with Matthew Spangler. The show started life in 2015 and has been performed in a number of locations since, including an appearance Off-Broadway in New York and the Edinburgh Fringe.
The set appears initially like the interior decorators have been in, with a collection of ladders on stage and large white sheets on the ground. At the start of the show, the stage is plunged into complete darkness. Our main protagonist arrives on stage with only the light from his mobile phone to guide his way. He then manages to find a switch that illuminates the stage. In the early part of the piece, we hear our Mariner is over 300 years old, kept alive by the spirits above to travel the world and tell his tale to all who will listen. The Mariner drapes the sheets between the ladders, which form screens for the various projections and our tale begins in earnest. These projections set the scene, with images of old taverns, boats and the endless sea. The early part of the story starts in Bristol in the 18th century, before the Mariner is tricked into taking part in the doomed voyage.
The script makes good use of the source material, weaving the story around the poem that many will be familiar with from school. It’s an enjoyable quirky tale told with humour and intensity. The most impressive element of the production is the performance of Benjamin Evett, who bounds around the stage in a dazzling physical performance, despite the heat in the theatre on the first night of the production. He looks every inch the Mariner, with an unkempt beard and a wild look in his eyes. He often talks directly to the audience, creating a conspiratorial atmosphere in the theatre.
The supernatural elements of the story are handled with style, as the unseen spirits urge our Mariner to get back to his story as he shoots off on another wild tangent or side story. The multi-media elements of the play are impressive and help the audience feel submerged in the plot. On the opening night, this played to a small audience, probably because it’s another unknown company and performer arriving on our shores, but this is a production that deserves to be seen. See it, or fear the wrath of the spirits above!
WRITTEN BY Matthew Spangler and Benjamin Evett
DIRECTED BY Rick Lombardo
LIGHTING + PROJECTION DESIGN BY Ari Herzig
COSTUME DESIGN BY Frances McSherry
SOUND DESIGN BY Rick Lombardo
PERFORMED BY Benjamin Evett