by Polly Teale..
Nottingham Playhouse Wellington Circus NG1 5AF To 21 March 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu 1.30pm Sat 2.30pm
Audio-described Sat 2.30pm.
BSL Signed Fri.
Captioned Thu 7.45pm.
Runs 1hr 50min One interval.
TICKETS: 0115 941 9419.
Review: Alan Geary: 16th March 2015.
A deeply flawed come-down for Shared Experience.
People who have appreciated Shared Experience’s work might be disappointed with Mermaid. Polly Teale’s adaptation of the Hans Christian Andersen tale has most of the distinctive features we’ve come to expect from the company, but it’s a flawed package.
It’s patronisingly relevant.
To be positive, we get an adaptable, well-lit set. And some wonderful sound and music; the singing from the mermaids is beautiful. So is the dance, suggesting the graceful behaviour of fish-like creatures. Mime, for instance in the shipwreck scenes, is excellent.
Acting is good, particularly from the Prince (Finn Hanlon) and the Little Mermaid (Sarah Twomey in her professional debut). Twomey is especially effective when struggling to adjust to life at the palace, with no voice and two legs instead of a tail. Polly Frame, who plays three parts well, is striking as Grand Mer, the moral centre of the play.
And the beauty and pathos of the original story are retained. The Little Mermaid, innocent and unworldly, falls in love with a prince and forsakes her ocean paradise for dry land. She becomes part of the cynical circus of human society.
But the problem arises from all this being bolted on to such deadeningly contemporary material. Instead of presenting the world of men and anger in general, non-specific terms, trusting us as adults to draw our own conclusions, we’re landed with the here and now, complete with dollops of left-wing cliché.
Blue (Natalie Gavin) is being bullied at school; predictably, over a pair of trainers. Dad’s an unemployed fishmonger driven out of a job by the new Tesco. The Prince and his ex-mermaid Princess – she develops an eating disorder – are clunking William and Kate lookalikes. And so it goes on.
Just in case we’re still not on message, illegal immigrants, the war in Afghanistan, suicide bombers and an anti-war demo are tossed into the mix.
All this can readily be explained. Blue’s working on her homework assignment. She’s been asked to re-write a classic fairy story, giving it an up-to-date setting. But this excuse doesn’t prevent the production from being a major come-down for Shared Experience.
Mermaid 2: Ritu Arya.
Grand Mer: Polly Frame.
Blue: Natalie Gavin.
Prince: Finn Hanlon.
Mermaid 1: Miranda Mac Letten.
King: Steve North.
Mermaid 3: Amaka Okafor.
Little Mermaid: Sarah Twomey.
Director: Polly Teale.
Designer: Tom Piper.
Lighting: Oliver Fenwick.
Movement: Liz Ranken.
Sound/Composer Jon Nicholls.
Associate director: Laura Farnworth.