Theatre: Tiger Lillies’ Rime of the Ancient Mariner: Brighton Dome

Graham Robson May 25, 2013


Twisted cabaret trio the Tiger Lillies conjured up a dark, and occasionally twisted, musical retelling of Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s The Rime of The Ancient Mariner, the existential story of a damned sailor drifting across the ocean after shooting an albatross.

The three-piece band, known for merging the macabre magic of pre-war Berlin with the savage edge of punk, veered from ebullient accordion-based sea shanties, to resonant ethereal piano ballads; the raucous Cabin Boy was bloody and good, while the spectral Land of Ice saw icy mountains cascade onto the stage, enticed by Mike Pickering‘s drums, which shimmered like moon-lit stalactites.

While an acquired taste, frontman Martyn Jacques‘ eerie vocals, were a perfect match for Coleridge’s epic tale, swooping into a cracked crystal falsetto, before digging up the dirt with guttural grunts. The beautifully ironic Water Water, a song utilising possibly the most famous line from the poem (“Water water everywhere, but not a drop to drink”), was desolate and peppered with sheer hopelessnesses: don’t drink the water or you’ll go mad, if you aren’t already!

Mark Holthusen‘s hypnotic multimedia projections harked back to children’s-theatre; an albatross deftly flying into the audience moved mechanically as if operated by strings, the waves were cardboard cutouts. Instead of over-powering the narrative, they seamlessly weaved together songs of rolling waves and reverie.

Rime of the Ancient Mariner is an utterly enchanting, boozy affair, evoking lost marbles in mid-ocean with more in common with Glyndebourne than Glastonbury.

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