The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

4 July – Behind the Royal Festival Hall

We all know the story of the ancient mariner as told in one of Englands greatest poems. Don’t worry, neither did I. But here’s what I gleaned: Long ago a ship sailed at sea. Everything goes tits up when a sailor shoots an albatross. Only he survives to land during a wedding. Thats about it. A ripping yarn by a respected english opium eater.

At this telling, we the audience were wedding guests behind the RFH. The wedding procession, a ten foot bride, arrived to church bells. Musicians dressed like morris men and schoolkids dressed like sailors. Bunting and too much sun. “This is just like an english country fete” I explained to my mate from the Ukraine, an opinion formed more from sunday evening tv than much actual experience with an english country fete. Our heads turned to follow the ever moving action and after many pointing hands we all looked skywards to see two police helicoptors not a dying albatross. Giant puppet skulls, visions of death, loomed over us and we gasped and cheered to the toils of our mariner. Hundreds of kids ran around, banging instruments, jumping on tables, being icebergs, the wind and the waves. We all clapped along to the music and I even didn’t hate the nasaly singing that folk singers do. Didn’t we have a lovely time and all for under a pound, well for free which is the point. Great fun. Really, great fun, like a pirates of Penzance street party.

“Instead of a cross, an albatross around his neck was hung” repeatedly chorused the kids. I wonder what they made of this line. I wondered what to make of it. The albatross was clearly a bad thing to have around his neck. A noose tied by his ship mates, a constant reminder of his murder. Which seems a bit rough seeing as all he did was shoot a bird. By these standards we’d all be lynching captain birdseye instead of eating tortured chickens without a second thought. The rare meats stall, selling ostrich burgers, were surely not alone to be that glad no-one around here takes art too seriously.

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