Theatre Review: Northern Ballet’s The Little Mermaid

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Life isn’t the fairy-tale that Disney tells it to be. That’s a hard life lesson many of us have had to come to terms with growing up. Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty and Snow White – they all have rather optimistic endings – but if you’re attending the Northern Ballet’s depiction of The Little Mermaid expecting a “happily ever after” then you may not be ready to face the stunning foray of despair that it surrounds you with.

A re-imagination of the plot from Hans Christen Anderson’s original fairy-tale, of a mermaid so desperately in love with a man she will give up everything she knows, suffer unimaginable pain and lose her identity to gain a human soul – The Little Mermaid ballet is everything you fear. It awakened an anxiety inside me that empathised so intensely, with a soul thrown into and trapped in a world it was mis-sold. Attracted by its materialistic beauty and treasures – believing it was to be something it is not.

Sacrifice, love, sadness, pain and exaltation were all experienced from my seat, as David Nixon OBE’s carefully crafted choreography cried out in every arabesque, pirouette and delicate adagio from the accomplished and skilled cast.

Marilla, The Little Mermaid, who is played by Abigail Prudames gave an emotional performance, negotiating between the suffering of physical and mental angst and her happiness at being surrounded by the man she loves, so well, that I felt it. Although her screams are silent – every movement from her body, every bit of rhythm made way for a new emotion – I both feared and longed for what was to happen next.

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The onstage chemistry between Marilla and Prince Adair (Joseph Taylor) was believable to the point where I admittedly found it so difficult to fall in love with or even like his character – a man so distracted by another woman he fails to see that the very one he longs for is the woman who has sold her soul to stand in front of him – but that means Joseph convinced me of Adair’s character.

Dillon, the seahorse, Marilla’s best friend (Kevin Peuong) is a far cry from the Sebastians or Flounders of Disney, however he’s still adorable, I found myself longing for a friendship like his and Marillas – the subtle twirls, their harmonious movements particularly in the first of the two acts, portrayed a playful friendship but one of trust. Every girl wishes they had a best friend like that.

It’s not just the ballet that is commendable in this performance piece though. The acting is hyperbolic yet understated. As the dancers silently move to the well crafted, original score, composed by Sally Beamis, which is cinematic, jaunty and reels you in – you can’t help but feel every movement stir up a new emotion inside of you.

It’s difficult to place whether the set (designed by Kimie Nakano) had something to do with it – two simple pieces which were moved by the supporting cast and used all space on the stage to represent both water or land. The light which casts subtle waves onto the curtains does a very good job of switching between the depths of the ocean and light of the land.

The most favourite routines of mine were when underwater, the supporting cast acting as waves – the blues and the greens of their skirts clashing and crashing like the waves of the ocean paired with the reflections of the costumes and makeup of Marilla and her sisters beautiful hair, skin and tails.

It was a strange feeling when the performance suddenly came to an end and the curtains closed because just like Marilla, you do feel as though you’re coming up out of the water, but this time back onto the land for air.

Review by Nadya Jaworksyi

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