Review: The Little Mermaid. Northern Ballet. Curve Theatre Leicester.

Impressed by last year’s emotionally wrought and, so sensitively done, The Boy In The Striped Pyjamas by Northern Ballet, this reviewer heads off again to Curve Leicester for the more family based ballet, The Little Mermaid. This is a ballet work by David Nixon with beguiling and stirring music by Sally Beamish. Even so, this superb production is no faux Disney schmaltzfest with a predictable happy ending. Well, spoiler city alert – dearest ballet lovers! Marilla, the little mermaid herself is adroitly and beautifully danced/played by Abigail Prudames, bless her fishy tail. But…

But Marilla makes the ultimate sacrifice for love. Alas, that love belongs to Prince Adair (Joseph Taylor) and Dana (Dreda Blow), his newly betrothed, not the besotted mermaid herself, despite her deep and understandable infatuation for him. Life can be cruel.

The production is superbly realised and returns to this reviewer, one full day later, like the hypnotic ebbing tide of a lucid dream. We find ourselves hooked onto the store of balletic memories; those of green dress crests of waves dancing in a vital Terpsichorean choppy sea. There are the thrills of the surging urgent dance of quickening sea storms; a striking set of shimmering metallics all burnished silver and catching the light in the salty air. The multiple shafts of theatrical light pierce the proverbial ocean swell and head deeper and deeper into the fathoms. The Japanese design by Kimie Nakano totally inspires. In sharp relief are the starkly foreboding cliff walls – off white and salt struck. In the sea are the billowing urgent moments of dance and we happily collude in the total joy of witnessing the three strong and comely mermaids swimming, dipping, diving and held gallantly aloft by strong male dancers’ arms. If it wasn’t a family show it could be lightly erotic.

Lyr, Lord of the Sea (Matthew Topliss) imposes his nautical majesty and shows off hints of deep cruelty; The haunting and uplifting ethereal tonal songs of the Little Mermaid herself captivate and suffuse our senses. We are visually intoxicated as big colourful paper fish swim across the stage in states of majestic orange and two huge white jelly fish appear momentarily luminescent and truly charming.

The deep and vast sea world is brought magically to life through imagination and dance by Northern Ballet. Throughout we witness and are captivated by the subtle green blue-grey aesthetics and flowing hues of the sea and its marine inhabitants. This is story telling at its very best through the medium and acuities of ballet. On land we are struck by the earthier colour palate, reds and browns and deep greens of the costumes and the music giving off a distinctly Celtic air.

As the Little Mermaid Marilla is offered a chance to live on land with her beloved Prince, whom she has saved from drowning, the price she has to pay, finally kicks in. No longer does she have her beautiful voice to sing and communicate and her new human style legs are full of severe cramps to make even the new act of walking quite intolerable. Even so, Dillion (Kevin Poeung) her seahorse best friend cannot intervene as much as he would like.

Fate decides what fortunes may come to our sweet heroine The Little Mermaid and we are utterly beguiled by her sad story. Northern Ballet sinfonia conductor John Pryce – Jones delights us with his live orchestral music by Sally Beamish. The Northern Ballet Company themselves dance exquisitely and the whole of the short ballet is an utter delight and surprisingly moving.

The Little Mermaid runs at Curve Leicester until Saturday 5th May 2018.

Reviewer: Phil Lowe.

Photo credits: Emma Kauldhar.

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