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Mermaid

Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh
Five stars

In a run-down seaside down where Tesco has left the local fishing industry bereft, teenage Blue sits chained to her mobile phone, desperate for the seemingly grown up world beyond to let her into the party. While her brightly-dressed peers follow their hormones, Blue dreams up a world of her own, where mermaids live in harmony beneath the sea, untouched by the wars that rage above them. One, however, becomes smitten with a drowning prince and the allure of the shiny world above.

It can't be understated just how gorgeous, how poignant and how downright radical Polly Teale's twenty-first century reboot of Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale of The Little Mermaid is in her own touring production for Shared Experience and Nottingham Playhouse. Set against a backdrop of peer-group pressure and privilege, of Royal weddings and media scrums, of anti war marches and beach bodied airbrushed perfection, its not hard to spot the real-life antecedents at play in Blue's stormy rites of passage.

Natalie Gavin as Blue and Sarah Twomey as The Little Mermaid lead a set of eight spikily realised performances supported by a fourteen-strong teenage female choir sourced locally from an on-line shout-out. Liz Ranken's choreography enables the ensemble to throw Busby Berkely shapes brimming with muscle, guts and yearning. Watching The Little Mermaid be taught how to walk in high heels by royal flunkies is a contemporary ballet by itself. For Blue and The Little Mermaid, at least, there is a happy ending, in that they learn to be who they are. As for the Prince, he goes on doing his duty, shell-shocked ever after.

The Herald, May 11th 2015

ends

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