Touring – reviewed at New Victoria Theatre, Woking
David Nixon’s new ballet for Northern Ballet is magical and mystical – just don’t go expecting a Disney-like ending. It can’t be easy to create a ballet from a fairytale story that features many scenes under the sea, but with this world premiere production of The Little Mermaid, David Nixon makes it look effortless.
Based on Hans Christian Andersen’s classic story, The Little Mermaid follows Marilla’s journey from mermaid to human as she sacrifices her life in the ocean in an attempt to be with the one that she loves Prince Adair. Unfortunately, it doesn’t quite go to plan, with Marilla learning about the pain of unrequited love.
David Nixon’s creative and lively production is wonderfully fluid from beginning to end, particularly during the early scenes set under the ocean and the way in which the illusion of the mermaids are swimming around is really effective. But it also captures the main message of Hans Christian Andersen’s original story that manages to strike a powerful chord when it is clear things aren’t going Marilla’s way and she is rejected by Prince Adair twice.
It is clear through Nixon’s effortless looking choreography that a lot of time and care to get each movement right, particularly during the ocean sequences reflecting the flow of the water, really takes the audiences to the depths of the under water world. Meanwhile, the choreography that takes place above the sea level is lively, playful that really conveys the story well. The occasional sequence does go on for slightly too long – particularly the wedding scene which could have been trimmed down slightly as it begins to distract from the story as a whole. But the majority of the time the story is strongly conveyed through the dancing.
Enhancing the mystical and magical world that the audience is drawn into is Sally Beamish’s score, which although has the occasional moment in which it can sound a little bit clunky, for the most part captures the twists and turns of the story effectively. It has many different layers to it such as being filled with drama during the storm scenes, before transforming to playfulness to reflect Marilla’s personality, keeping the audience invested in the many different elements to the story.
The Northern Ballet dancers are consistently beautiful to watch – elegant, graceful and passionate in a way that allows the audience to completely immerse themselves into the story and the music. Abigail Prudames is particularly delightful as Marilla, light and elegant on her feet with a wonderful exuberant and childlike personality that works wonderfully well for the character.
Meanwhile, Kevin Poeung as Dillion the seahorse is enthusiastic and charming whose performance adds playfulness and light hearted fun to the story, while Joseph Taylor as Prince Adair and Dreda Blow as Dana are perfectly matched, complimenting each other’s performances together well.
Those expecting a Disney-like ending this production are in for a bit of a surprise, but it is excellent to see a very realistic and faithful adaptation of a fairytale brought exquisitely to life by the Northern Ballet.