The tale of the Little Mermaid is probably best known as the Disney version; the mermaid wants the prince, gives up everything, gets the prince, and they live happily ever after.
This isn’t that tale.
The Northern Ballet has put on the Hans Christen Anderson version of the tale, one much darker and full of despair and longing. It was fabulous. As always, the Northern Ballet delivers a stunning foray into story.
The set, made of two simple pieces which were moved to show either water or land, was a perfect backdrop for the beautiful dancers. The costumes, both those of the undersea dancers as well as those on land, were an excellently balanced blend of soft ocean colours and more dramatic, solid hues.
Dancing the part of Marillla, the little mermaid, is Abigail Prudames. Her depiction of the adventurous mermaid who wants to go above the water was beautifully danced. The transition from curious, lovelorn girl to desperate, devastated and cast-aside woman was beautifully done, with her pain clear in every silent scream.
Prince Adair, danced by Joseph Taylor, was perfectly cast. His movements were sharp and clear, his facial expressions exactly right to convey his confusion and desire, his happiness and his longing. Though he gets his happily ever after, it is clear he knows the price which has been paid. Taylor does an excellent job of keeping the audience enthralled.
Lyr, Lord of the Sea (Mathew Topliss) and Dana (Dreda Blow), are both beautiful to watch. Topliss, in his intricate mask and costume, moves beautifully as he bestows the cursed gift on the little mermaid and then demands payment at the very end. Dana comes across as pure and light hearted; this makes it difficult to root against her, even as the little mermaid has given up everything. Blow’s dancing lights up the stage every time she’s on it, and she’s a lovely counterpart to both Prudames and Taylor.
The timing of the dancers was perfect, their dancing smooth and precise. There wasn’t a single dancer who wasn’t at the top of their game. The intensity of the music by an outstanding orchestra feeds the emotions and when it all comes crashing down, you feel it in your soul. The time flew past, and only when the curtain falls at the end is the audience able to breathe properly again.
This show is highly recommended, though if you’re going to bring children, it might be worth explaining that there are two versions of the story. In this one, the mermaid gets far less than she’d hoped for.
The Little Mermaid by Northern Ballet runs until Saturday 11 November 2017 at Nottingham's Theatre Royal.