This Mermaid’s scales are balanced between charm & chill in the fishy tail of aquatic angst, teenage tryst and princely pouting.
Add to this waves of eco warrior environmentalism, peace movement pacifism and body dysmorphia and you have Hans Christian Anderson brought bang up to date, down to the crack waxing and bulimia.
While staying true to the original didactic tale of the mermaid who seeks human love and pays the price, Polly Teale’s take throws in other rather cerebral concerns such as the state of the human condition, being sentient, the concept of time, mutability and mortality.
The prince has to have some reason for his pious pining so his are the pointlessness of royal pomp, the restraints and also futility of being a figurehead soldier, son and royal marriage fodder. However, while the Mermaid is obviously a Diana clone this is more a Harry than a Charlie, despite his ramblings about the natural world, as this little prince wants to be a squaddie and get down the with the guys despite his post traumatic battlefield disorder.
As the Little Mermaid Sarah Twomey plays the fish turned fashion victim superbly, speaking in whatever her accent is, staggering in high heels, puking as her love life crumbles as the gorgeous prince, played posh by Finn Hanlon considers the limits of Descartes and the advantages butterflies have in not knowing they are about to be devoured by predators.
The absolute star of the show is Liz Ranken who has created the glorious choreography for the mermaids as they so lithely, so unlike humans, that we just don’t notice the lack of water as they swim around Tom Piper’s set.
The story is basically a teenage coming of age as the poor kid on the block, Blue, sympathetically played by Natalie Gavin, takes to writing her fantasy tale based on the stories of mermaids she has been told since a child living from, loving and living by and in the sea. Without spoiling the ending the mermaid and the girl are two sides of the same coin. She finds her voice, literally and metaphorically, in her own Water World but although the prince finds what he has been looking for, being a prince he cannot have it. Yes, life is tough for royal boys.
The suitably haunting music created by Jon Nicholls and sung by a chorus of local young women in this overwhelmingly female show adds to the mystique and otherworldliness of the story.
Polly Frame plays Blue’s mother, the mermaids’ grandmer (hmm) and the Queen who again are of course three sides of coin, if you know what I mean. Steve North plays the King and I’m not really sure if he is supposed to also be a different facet of Blue’s redundant fisherman father. I suppose once you’ve fathered the heir and spare you’ve done your bit and the missus looks after encouraging the next stage of procreativity.
The mermaids, Ritu Arya, Miranda Mac Letten and Amaka Okator, are just great both as the exquisite sirens of the sea or the slutty sea witches who have tasted the dark side.