Reviewed by Nigel Chester
The last time I saw ballet, I was nine years old and on a school trip, so it was with only a minimal understanding, that I found myself sitting in a comfortable seat at Theatre Royal in Nottingham, listening to the orchestra tuning up.
The lights dimmed, and the audience fell silent, the curtains raised, and with perfect synchronisation, the orchestra played and the dancers moved. The stage was alive; an underwater world of imagination was played before us.
This Northern Ballet adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid, first published in 1837 stays true to the essence of his story and is not sweetened for a child’s consumption as Disney did. This tale is as brutal as it is beautiful. It is a tale of an anguished and tortured soul, pain, both mental and physical, but overwhelmingly, it is a tale of love and sacrifice.
Every single thing was perfect, it is technically brilliant, and the set was moved along with the dancers, by the dancers, to become hills, a ship or an underwater playground, every moment was joyful to observe.
How such a complex story could be told without dialogue is a masterpiece of its own, but tell the story they did, of the tiny Marilla, youngest of three mermaid sisters, who enjoys her waterworld and plays with her best friend, Dillion the seahorse. Marilla, so skilfully interpreted by Abigail Prudames, sees a locket, dropped by her sisters, inside, two photographs of a human man, Prince Adair, her heart quickens and she holds the locket tight, in spite of Dillions protests. Marilla breaks the water and watches, she sees the man in the photo, the Prince, captaining his fishing vessel, celebrating the days catch with the crew.
Lyr, the King of the sea, creates a ferocious storm and many of the fishermen drown, as the mermen danced, it was easy to believe that these men were truly drowning, it all seemed very real and I held my breath.
With her beautiful tail, Marilla swims ashore carrying the Prince, she sings and falls in love with the man in whose world she has no part.
Marilla makes a terrible trade with Lyr, who gives her a human body in return for her voice, however, the legs she longs for always cause her pain, as if walking on knives. Andersen had no happy ending planned for The Little Mermaid and the Northern Ballet exquisitely executed the whole story of unrequited love and the role that the mesmerising mermaid had in saving the Prince.
Realizing that she will never be loved by Prince Adair, Marilla, is given the opportunity to resume her previous life, Lyr takes her sisters hair in exchange for a dagger, if Marilla kills Adair, the status quo will return. She cannot, and choses to throw the dagger at Lyr and kill the storm which threatens the Prince once again. Marilla’s voice returns as the sea takes the little mermaid to her death.
I loved it all, the story, the costume and make-up. The Scottish influence of the music, the sea shanties, the work of composer, Sally Beamish, writing for the ballet since 2015, danced and played so skilfully. Most of all I loved the dance, how the human body can move in such remarkable ways is a true wonder.
If you think that the ballet may be for you, I urge you to go and see The Little Mermaid, a brand-new ballet production currently touring the country until May 2018.
Tickets cost from £12 to £42 (booking fees may apply).
Northern Ballet’s The Little Mermaid is at the Theatre Royal in Nottingham from 7-11 November 2017, for more inforamtion or to book tickets visit www.trch.co.uk or call the box office on 0115 989 5555.
Theatre Royal & Royal Concert Hall, Theatre Square, Nottingham, NG1 5ND | 0115 989 5555