Festival review: Rime; Summerhall (venue 26)

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With most aerial and circus shows encouraging us to show our appreciation every step of the way, this comes as a refreshing change.

There are numerous impressive moments in Rime worthy of spontaneous applause. Yet it isn’t expected nor solicited, so it doesn’t come. Instead, they allow us to get caught up in the action, only breaking the fourth wall at the very end when they finally stop for well-deserved applause.

This is, in part, because Rime is a show with narrative intent – break the flow and you break the storyline. But to be honest, this feels less of a reason than a sense that Square Peg Contemporary Circus know their worth, and don’t need to keep looking for affirmation.

Inspired by Coleridge’s epic 18th-century poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, this is a show rich in atmosphere, skill and diversity. If the performers just delivered the aerial aspects, it would be enough to secure a recommendation of talent. But this is just one string to their bow. Having scaled high poles, balanced themselves on top of each other and generally shown their remarkable strength, dexterity and, let’s face it, bravery, the five performers then casually pick up a musical instrument and start playing, or create patterns of synchronised dance on the floor.

If there’s a flaw, it lies in the storytelling. I didn’t know the intricacies of Coleridge’s poem before, and I’m none the wiser now. Yet like watching an opera in a foreign language without surtitles, it really doesn’t matter. The sense of celebration at the wedding banquet, starvation on the ship and sheer terror of the storm are all there.

The large scaffolding set is used not just for aerial purposes, but to dock the ship or sail it, depending on the position of the large sheets and rigging. And, just like a ship’s crew, the company looks completely at home on it.

Rating: ****

Until tomorrow. Today 5:30pm.