Theatre from the cracks in the psyche of culture











SCREAM July 2001

The Dying Art of The Mariner

some reflections on an ancient mariner


The Late Peter Brammall as the Ancient Mariner in 1985

There was something so majestic about Peter as he sat up to talk with visitors. He couldn't speak in more than a whisper. He puffed on his cigarettes. He weighed about half of his average weight. And he fixed us with his one "glittering eye".

"I'm dying!" he said casually. And I agreed. He should have had only days to live. But, being Peter, he lived for some weeks. Then the Mariner died.

In 1985, Peter Brammall played Coleridge's Ancient Mariner in a production directed by me at The Erindale Centre Theatre. In her review in The Canberra Times, Lady Hope Hewitt wrote:

  "Here the Mariner of Peter Brammall was central: bearded and salt-encrusted, given literally one glittering eye by patching out the other, but above all speaking and acting with an intensity, a sense of possession beyond this earth, which made his narrative worthy of our full attention on its own."

She didn't know that Peter only had one eye: having lost the other in a horrific car accident years earlier. She also assumed Peter was a professional actor brought in to supplement the community group presenting the work. But this was Peter's only acting performance since school. It was a once-off effort he probably could never duplicate or attempt to equal.

Unfortunately, the beta-cam video of the performance was stolen later in 1985. Unless it is recovered, the magnificence of Peter's Mariner will never be glimpsed again. But there were aspects of Peter's life that hinted at his art ... most evident in his approaching death.

Peter's wit and love of words livened up every social occasion. He hated to hear people misusing the language. Even as he spoke with less than a whisper, Peter still made points to clarify the meaning of statements and sloppy expression. It was his love of poetry and making words live that saw him cast as the Ancient Mariner all those years ago.

Those who loved Peter Brammall still heard him "speaking and acting with an intensity, a sense of possession beyond this earth."

And as he sat sculptured in his lounge chair or sitting up on his bed, I saw within him a work of the highest art and a model of creation that was becoming its final phase of existence. Somehow, the wasted body gained a majesty and dignity that touched my own inner frame of reference for life and living. And I recalled all those times that he had lifted all our spirits whenever he entered a room where people gathered. But now he would leave me with something of his own spirit: something to be injected into my life and work. His story fixed me with his "glittering eye" and filled me with its imperfections and triumphs: leaving me "like one that hath been stunned."

"The Mariner, whose eye is bright, Whose beard with age is hoar, is gone ..."


SHADOWHOUSE PITS issues a plea that should anyone come across the missing video of the 1985 production of The Rime Of The Ancient Mariner (produced by Stagecoach Theatre School and Gaudeamus at The Erindale Theatre), to contact us by email:

The video would have great sentimental and archival value for those who knew Peter Brammall and for those who took part in that amazing production.

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