Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Fiona Shaw's Coleridge

Fiona Shaw, best known among a larger public for her appearance in the Harry Potter films (in the role of Petunia Dursley) is an outstanding Irish actress whom I saw as Medea more than once and also in Three Sisters, John Gabriel Borkman, and Beckett’s Happy Days, among others.  Recently, she conceived a staged reading of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and acted in it, accompanied by a younger male dancer Daniel Hay-Gordon who provided a non-speaking supporting role.  Her acting was certainly energetic and passionate, if at times overacted.  But the performance as a whole, lasting only 45 minutes, left me oddly unaffected and I came out with an unfulfilled feeling.  Back home, I reflected on the matter and realized that Coleridge’s intensely expressive epic, was singularly ill-suited to a stage realization because the poem itself is so rich in imagery and drama that making it so explicit — visible and tangible on the stage — was perhaps pointless and therefore ineffective.  I took out the text and read it to myself and found, too, the poet’s language stunningly simple and clear such as to require no interpretive reading by a talented actor which might have been useful and exciting had the poem been textually complex and  abstruse.

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