5 January 2014

The Little Mermaid at Riverside Studios

The Little Mermaid was another delightful play hosted by Riverside Studios.

It told the famous (though not to me) story at two arms' lengths. Framing the play was a conversation between an elderly Hans Christian Andersen and a strange young girl, she might just have been a faerie.

He tells her the story of the mermaid mixed in with the story of himself as he wrote it as a young man yet to make an impression on the world but with the support of a rich patron who believed that he would.

The mermaid's main attraction, her beautiful singing voice, was brought to the fore through music and songs, though I would not go quite as far as to call it a musical. Others might.

The three intertwined stories were skilfully told by a small cast who each played several roles and also provided all the music for the songs. The character changes were nicely done with just minor changes to costumes and in one the mermaid's prince transformed in to Andersen just by walking across the stage and putting a tie on.

That stage had two halves. On the right was a study where Andersen wrote his stories and on the left (pictured) was the mermaid's realm. The space became other places, like a ballroom with no physical changes needed as the cast conjured up the scene by themselves.

I enjoyed both stories and they shared a certain strangeness and a troublesome love-life that failed to come good at the end.

The story that Hans Christian Andersen wrote ended as it had to and he himself, in the other story, explained why that was.

I enjoyed even more the way that the stories were put together and were presented. There was much for the theatre enthusiast to enjoy in the construction and execution that added to the pleasure of the slightly-dark tales. It was an accomplished production without being fussy, and that is just how I like them.

The only ever-so-small negative on the evening was the title of the work. Calling it The Little Mermaid and putting it on over the Christmas Holiday obviously fooled some people who could not be bothered to read beyond the headline. If they had done so then they would not have brought small children to the event and if I had not done so I would also have assumed that it was for children and I would have missed a treat.

Blind Tiger, the production team, have as their motto "Be brave and get bitten" which is exactly the attitude that I take to theatre. I am glad that I was brave and took a risk on going to see The Little Mermaid and I like the way that it bit me.

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