Northern Ballet’s World Premiere of The Little Mermaid, Touring
Review by Soraya Scrivener
Following Casanova and The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, The Little Mermaid is Northern Ballet’s 3rd new full-length ballet of 2017. This production reimagines the Hans Christian Andersen underwater fairy tale. However, Marilla, this Little Mermaid follows a deeper journey that ends more tragically than happily ever after, Disney style. For love and the desire to gain an eternal soul she trades her voice with the Lord of the Sea in exchange for legs that will guarantee her pain.
I have eagerly anticipated this production since its announcement last year and after the glimpse of David Nixon’s livestream rehearsal ‘The Little Mermaid, Beneath the Surface’ (still available on You Tube).
David Nixon’s stunning, inventive direction, choreography and costume design for the underwater scenes far exceeded my expectations. The fluidity and subtlety of movement of the cast, particularly the waves (water men and women) was breath-taking. The constant sense of movement never wavered throughout. The lifts especially of the Mermaid and two sisters were impressive as was the Mermaid and Prince’s first meeting. I was fascinated by the Mermaid costume tails and the waves skirts. Credit must go not just to Nixon and his costume design assistant Julie Andersen but to the dancers who made such a challenge look effortless. The costumes for the land characters were a contrast to the underwater costumes as expected but I didn’t find them generally flattering in colour or shape.
Abigail Prudames as the Little Mermaid met the demands of such an intricately detailed role with ease. Her heartfelt solo when the Mermaid gains her legs was mesmerising. However, I found her costume a little too gaudy and her wig was shorter and Barbie like in colour compared to her sister mermaids which rather irked me throughout. The mimed singing did not work for me either in sound or synchronisation.
Set designer Kimie Nakano gives us a contemporary set which cleverly twists to alternate between the shore, the ship and the underwater scenes. However, there needed to be more distraction from the abundance of set movement. The jelly fish in act 1 were a beautiful light-hearted touch.
There was a Scottish influence in Sally Beamish’s compositions which were cleverly tuneful on land and not so underwater. Though perfectly executed by the Northern Ballet Sinfonia there was nothing memorable for me.
Joseph Taylor who delighted us at the Mayflower Theatre last year as the Prince in Beauty & the Beast, charms us again as a Prince. The duets with his love Dana (Dreda Blow) were delightful. The celebration pieces in Act 2 showed off this talented company’s technique. The three male solos were splendid and Matthew Koon, Junior soloist stood out here. Prudames and Taylor followed with some thrilling lifts in their dream duet. I couldn’t help feeling the ending of the ballet could have been more obvious and to more spectacular effect.
Northern Ballet are a strong company that are a joy to watch and it is refreshing to be treated to so many new narrative works. I would recommend children and indeed adults read the synopsis first. At the Mayflower Theatre until Saturday 23rd then touring until May 2018 to Norwich, Newcastle, Nottingham, Canterbury, Woking, Sheffield, Leeds, Edinburgh, Milton Keynes and Leicester.