Review: The Little Mermaid. Derby Theatre (2)

Joelle Brabban and Jordan Laidley

It is fair to say that 2020 has seen us all step into the unknown. It is no different for Derby Theatre, as it seeks to adapt to Covid-19 restrictions and provide a way for theatre-goers to get their fix of festive family fun. Recorded and shared digitally, the titular Little Mermaid’s journey has echoes for both young and old, as we all adapt to new experiences and circumstances.  

Adapted by Mike Kenny and superbly directed by Sarah Brigham, this is a show to warm the cockles of your heart. There are two casts of four actors in total; each team of two playing alternate viewings. In this version, Joelle Brabban and Jordan Laidley play the two ‘fish’ narrators who guide us through the story.  

They both describe in vivid detail the Little Mermaid’s pact with the Sea-witch, who grants her wish to be admitted from the enchanted world under the sea to the human world above. Sadly, this comes at a price, as the Little Mermaid loses her voice and with it her ability to speak and sing. Furthermore, every step she takes on land is like ‘treading on the edge of a sharp knife.’ Is the price too high to pay? Will the Little Mermaid be granted her happy ending?  

Please do not be put off by this seemingly sad synopsis. You enter a world of watery wonder and nautical fun, guaranteed to be heartily enjoyed by 5+ year-olds and adults alike. The storytelling by the two leads is beautifully expressive, warm and engaging. Working in tandem to perfectly complement one another, each phrase, facial expression and gesture draws you in and captivates.  

The clever staging is augmented with music and a soundscape by Ivan Stott that is never intrusive, but perfectly pitched. The same can be said of the costumes by Ali Allen. A lovingly adorned tailcoat proves particularly memorable. Special mention should also be reserved for John Barber’s inventive puppetry, which brings with it just the right amount of menace and jeopardy.  

The script deserves praise too for the way in which it enhances what our eyes can see and feeds our imaginations for that which we cannot. Subtle use of repetition ensures even the youngest members of the digital audience can follow the plot.  

If you are looking for a visual spectacle to transport you to a mesmerising, entrancing other world, then The Little Mermaid is the show to see.  

Sit back, kick back and enjoy some festive cheer from the comfort of your own sofa. It might well be a new or different experience, but it will definitely be worth it, nonetheless.  

Let yourselves be swept away on a wave of ‘mermaid-ian magic’.  

Running time: 48 minutes  

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