REVIEW: The Little Mermaid, Northern Ballet, Mayflower Theatre

By Hilary Porter

SOUTHAMPTON's Mayflower raised the curtain on the world premiere of Northern Ballet's The Little Mermaid last night.

It's a production that ebbs and flows taking us on a watery narrative on course with Hans Christian Anderson's original tale far removed from any sugar-coated Disney classic.

Indeed, there is no happy-ever-after in this mystical tale of unrequited love and worlds that should never meet.

Certainly Northern Ballet's Artistic Director David Nixon, who is director, choreographer and costume designer, has captured the eerie and forlorn world of the well-loved fairytale and Sally Beamish's specially written score with its hint of Scottish themes reflects the Celtic elements of the story.

Set designer Kimie Nakano has kept things simple creating the two contrasting worlds of land and sea. The use of transparent plastic and mirror frames the stage with an effective water look; this is covered in abstract textured artwork suggesting organic sea foliage to evoke a dark deep-sea atmosphere. The land where the humans live is represented by two movable white rock walls. These are also used to create the ever-moving spaces of the ballet: the rocks; the mermaids’ palace; the cave; the ship; and the Prince’s palace.

The costumes are fabulous - from the swirling dappled blue and green evocative of the sea to Marilla (The Little Mermaid's) more spangled fish-like creations. Abigail Prudames was an engaging performer who captured the impish and childlike qualities of a creature who is neither fish nor human.

Joseph Taylor was a strong and charismatic Prince Adair. The company as a whole impressed with their strength, dexterity and fluidity particularly with the underwater scenes.

Overall this was an impressive production although the limited storyline meant some scenes felt drawn out and our emotional engagement with what is a tragic tale was not sustained.

Like the children's storybook on which it is based this is a story about dreams and aspirations, but it is also about the innocence and naivety of The Little Mermaid who sacrifices everything for love.

The Little Mermaid runs at The Mayflower until Saturday.