THE MERMAID PRINCESS
by Teresa Ludovico English translation by Stuart Rogers.
Teatro Kismet Tour to 3 July 2010.
Runs 1hr No interval.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 26 March at Curve, Leicester.
Lovely to look at, less delightful to know.
Nottingham Playhouse introduced English audiences to Italy’s Teatro Kismet. From Bari, they were a wonderful discovery, large-scale compared with many companies performing to young people around Britain, bringing full-throated theatricality and interpretative depth to traditional stories, together with a sense of fun.
They’ve been coming a couple of decades now. This tour of The Mermaid Princess shows Kismet, and director Teresa Ludovico, have maintained the theatricality that helped make them so refreshing. Too exactly perhaps, for theatre has moved on. Young people’s theatre has developed in storytelling sophistication, moving towards simplicity, while visual and physical theatre overall has advanced its grammar. Yet Kismet remains pretty much where it was.
It may even have retreated. The actors here seem imprisoned within set and lighting, lacking the independence of the early shows. And, like last year’s revival of The Snow Queen, this production harks back to a time when bursts of pre-recorded music, popular of classical, was the way to employ sound, rather than the integral, often live and specially-composed music and soundscapes of nowadays.
There’s an old-style formality to the acting. This might have to do with actors speaking English as a foreign language. They speak with admirable clarity, but accents and unfamiliar phrasing create barriers to immediacy. And even the smaller of Curve’s spaces still seems too large for the cast of six on a bare set that emphasises the extent of space. So action which needs to connect with its audience remains remote.
That could change in other venues. But there’s a forced humour to the landlocked scenes, with their pompous court Chamberlain and a contest (under-populated) to marry a prince. Neither acting nor direction can provide depth for the Mermaid’s attempts to follow the prince she saved from drowning. If, on land, she’s out of her element, so, when it comes to dialogue, is this production.
Which leaves moments of theatricality. At best they create a poetic intensity, like the surges of mist that finally envelop the mermaid as she turns into a cloud. If only this, too, wasn’t brought clomping to earth by a final explanatory line.
Nanny Tuna/Sea Witch/Consuelo: Eugenia Amisano.
Narrator/Candidate Number One: Raffaela Gardon.
Mermaid Princess: Daria Menichetti.
Lord Chamberlain/Leo the Fish/Sea Monster: Paolo Summaria.
Bear/Prince/Sea Monster: Valerio Tambone.
Director: Teresa Ludovico.
Designer: Luca Ruzza.
Lighting: Vincent Longuemare.
Movement: Giorgio Rossi.
Costume: Luigi Spezzacatene.
Assistant dramaturg: Loreta Guario.