THE LITTLE MERMAID
by David Shopland and Callum Hughes
Music and songs by Blind Tiger
Studio 3, Riverside Studios 1 Crisp Road Hammersmith W6 9RL To 12 January 2014.
Tue–Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 2pm Sun 5pm
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0208 237 1111.
Review: William Russell 13 December.
Forget Danny and Disney.
Anyone expecting ‘Wonderful, Wonderful Copenhagen’ and the rest at Riverside this Christmas should dismiss such hopes right away. They are not on offer and nobody is going to leave the theatre humming Blind Tiger’s songs, played on some interesting instruments by the cast – they are certainly atmospheric but not very melodious. Nor has it anything to do with Uncle Walt.
Writers David Shopland and Callum Hughes draw parallels between Hans Christian Andersen’s life and the plot of his celebrated story about the fatal love of the little mermaid for the prince whose life she has saved in a storm at sea. It seems Jonas Collin, a wealthy Copenhagen businessman who recognised his talent and became his patron, took the young Anderson into his family. Andersen then embarked on one of those odd, often non-physical male love affairs, which 19th-century men tended to have, with Jonas’s son.
It is not that Andersen was homosexual or bisexual, but he was needy and Collin appears to have been the person he believed could fulfil those needs. Not in any physical sense, although the two had by all accounts a strong, difficult friendship which the play suggests inspired Andersen to write the little mermaid’s tale of unrequited love.
This interesting theory never convinces, not so much because of any fault of the play, although one can question whether the case is made for it by Shopland and Hughes, but more because there is absolutely no chemistry between the two pleasant young men playing Hans and Collin. Even when essaying an attempted cuddle they are not really interested in each other.
The two stories mesh intriguingly enough, Claire Sharpe makes an appealing Mermaid, James Earl Adair as both the aged Hans looking back at his life with the wisdom of age and Jonas Collin is very impressive, and Faye Shorthall has designed a rather nice set. But give me Danny Kaye and Zizi Jeanmaire any day.
As to the age it is suitable for this Christmas time, the theatre suggests it is all right for 12 year olds – I have my doubts about that.
Young Andersen: Anthony Pinnick.
The Little Mermaid: Claire Sharpe.
Edvard Collin/The Prince: Stu Mansell.
Sister/Jette/Sea Witch/Princess: Erla Brynjarsdottir.
Old Andersen/Jonas Collin/Sea King: James Earl Adair.
Girl/Maid/Jenny Lind: Jennifer Johnson.
Director: David Shopland.
Designer: Faye Shortall.
Lighting: Nic Farman.
Musical Supervisor: Callum Hughes.