Theatre review: Mermaid, Edinburgh

At the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

At the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh. Picture: Ian Georgeson

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CELEBRATING “the union of physical and text-based theatre” is how the Shared Experience company describe their raison d’etre, although in this touring production of playwright and director Polly Teale’s update of Hands Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid, delicately drawn comparisons between the feminist undercurrents of the story and those challenges facing young women today as they leave childhood behind are nearly subsumed beneath the sheer visual beauty of the piece.

Mermaid

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

****

The cast of mostly young female actors, with Polly Frame indefinably ageless in the more matriarchal roles, spend the play in constant motion, as choreographed by Liz Ranken. They dance boldly but awkwardly to Miley Cyrus as a team of bitchy young girls who tease their classmate Blue (played with vulnerability by Natalie Gavin) or smoothly glide across the floor and raised stage as a shoal of mermaids imagined by Blue in her stories, one of whose number (Sarah Twomey, who is – incredibly – making a very assured professional debut) falls in love with a handsome prince and cuts a tragic deal to live with him on land.

The points Teale makes are relevant, but not harshly hammered home by the contemporary resonances of the piece. Under the sea, protected by her Grandmer and the other women of her kind amidst otherworldly surroundings (Tom Piper’s mirrored cube of a stage is effectively rendered), the Little Mermaid need not worry about the passing of time and the effect age will have on her. Yet, brutally, bloodily muted by her agreement, she is celebrated by the media as the perfect docile consort to a prince (Finn Hanlon) whose own mental scars from his time in Afghanistan run deep. Here, love is not the only salvation available to the young woman, but a union of equals who fill the gaps in each other’s psyche.

Seen on 07/05

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