Director and choreographer: David Nixon
Music: Sally Beamish
Reviewer: Maggie Constable
At Milton Keynes theatre this week Northern Ballet follows last year’s wonderful Casanova with yet another superb production: The Little Mermaid. This is a re-working of the famous and much-loved Hans Christian Andersen classic. However, this is no Disney story but a very poignant one, much more akin to the original tale.
Deep under the sea is a world where Marilla, the Little Mermaid, youngest of three sisters plays in her sea garden with her sisters and her best friend, Dillion the sea horse. She has heard many stories from her siblings about life up above and when she is at last permitted to see what lies beyond the waves she is entranced. On finding a locket which contains the picture of a handsome prince she is captivated by him much to the annoyance of Lyr, Lord of the Sea. The latter brings about a great storm so that the prince’s ship is wrecked. All on board are drowned with the exception of the prince. Marilla brings him ashore, so saving his life, but then flees when other maidens arrive. He awakes but recalls only her lovely voice. Madly in love already with Prince Adair, Marilla agrees with Lyr’s reluctant offer that in order to be given legs, feet and a human soul she must give up her voice. Unluckily for her the prince erroneously believes it is Dana who rescued him, falls for her and they are set to wed. Where will it all end?
As our eponymous heroine, Marilla, Abigail Prudames portrays with utter lyricism and fluidity both the mermaid and the human. Her movements below the waves are so expressive, her face detailing every moment of joy, wonder and pain – a truly touching performance. Joseph Taylor’s Prince Adair is lightly dramatic, his leaps effortless. He shows us clearly the mix of emotions the prince feels, at times torn between the two women. His duet with Marilla at the start of Act 2 is wonderful and their connection totally convincing.
Lyr, Lord of the Sea, is danced by Matthew Topliss with real power and dynamism. His presence pervades the stage. Dillion, the sea horse, is brought to us by Kevin Poeung. His delicate and humorous movements show us the playful side of the character well.
David Nixon has not only created all the delightful choreography and directed but is responsible for the amazing costumes which add so much to the production. Swirls of blue, white and green make the audience feel the sea. Kimie Nakano’s set design is simple but effective and works especially well for the underwater scenes. It is much enhanced by Tim Mitchells’ superbly ambient lighting.
The 27 piece Northern Sinfonia orchestra truly does justice to Sally Beamish’s excellent score, its filmic quality reflects the settings, the events and the emotions so well. A shame then that Marilla’s voice sounds very recorded by comparison.
Although the story can seem a little slow at times, anyone seeing this production cannot fail to be moved and entranced. A thoroughly pleasurable evening’s entertainment.
Runs Until 21 April 2018 | Image: Emma Kauldhar