By Metta Theatre
4th April, York Theatre Royal
A circus-inspired retelling of the classic Hans Cristian Andersen tale, Metta Theatre’s new adaptation of The Little Mermaid promised impressive acrobatics, a haunting original soundtrack and a story to captivate all ages. What it delivers doesn’t quite reach those lofty goals, but is an enjoyable production with moments of brilliance nonetheless.
To get the less than great parts out of the way; many of the acrobatics felt a little clumsy, or you didn’t feel completely confident that the performer was going to pull whatever they were attempting off. What should have been seamless, flowing movement (these are meant to be mermaids, remember!) unfortunately sometimes felt quite shaky and clunky. The music, whilst original and not without its excellent moments, was a little repetitive and the mix of live and recorded didn’t sit right with me.
However, there are some great elements to this production. The parts of the story which took place on land tended to be stronger, with some excellent slapstick comedy that had the kids laughing, and moments of innovative costuming with exposed boning on the ladies’ dresses that made for some striking images and added a modern fairy-tale feel that the rest of the visuals were somewhat lacking. Some of the circus sequences were fantastic, with swirling aerial hoop routines and Roo Jenkins-Jones’ magic on the cyr wheel (or, ‘big twirly hoop thing’ as I was calling it before a crafty Google). There were a few ‘aaah’ moments from the audience as cast members stacked themselves three people tall or leapt into each other’s arms from impressive heights.
For me the absolute star of the show was the actress who played both oldest sister Careful and the Tailor, Rosalind Ford – what a talent. She provided the standout moment of the production as the OTT Tailor, pinching, prodding and operatically warbling (at one point whilst in a split, no less) her way into my heart. Her vocals were incredible and her ability to sing whilst playing the cello so beautifully (also to seemingly hold up said cello with only her mind – seriously, how was she holding it up? How?!) had me captivated.
So whilst I wish that more of the production had been elevated to the level we caught glimpses of here and there, perhaps with more humour and more commitment to providing the enchanting magic we expect from a modern fairy-tale, the most important thing I took from this show was that it’s great for children. There was laughter, gasping and even at one dramatic moment an expertly timed, ‘she can’t give up!’ from a little girl behind us, which told me that the swathes of kids around us were having a good time. And not just for little mermaids – there was a great message about all the different ways men can be strong that all the little mermen out there should hear too.
Metta Theatre’s Little Mermaid is on at York Theatre Royal from the 4th– 7th April (so you’ve got a couple of shows left!).
Summary: A fairy-tale adaptation that doesn’t quite reach its full potential but delivers some standout moments, and is great for little’uns.