Northern Ballet have a very rich tapestry of performances to their name. With a reputation for adapting recognisable and beloved literature into stunning ballet performances, they often reimagine stories for the first time.
Their repertoire includes works such as Jane Eyre (2017), 1984 (2016) and The Great Gatsby (2013). This modern and subversive approach to ballet has drawn in a wide range of audiences and brought the artform to so many, in new and explorative ways. The Little Mermaid was no exception – it was simply sublime.
The dancing was flawless, showcasing dancers that could rival the likes of Sergei Polunin and Darcey Bussell. The power and emotion that seemed to fuel the dancers was exceptional. In a show with not a single word spoken or line sung, the ability to make the moment that Marilla the little mermaid loses her voice, demonstratively raw and heart-breaking is no mean feat – yet dancer Abigail Prudames struk all the right chords with her evocative performance.
The show did not rest placidly on the shoulders of classical scores, but has its own original soundtrack, composed by Sally Beamish and performed live by the Northern Ballet’s own Sinfonia. This added to the unique and unforgettable experience that The Little Mermaid brings.
The performance was visually stunning and the transition of underwater to land, gentle and harmonious. The costumes, particularly of the mermaids themselves , were stunning. The multitude of pleated bias cut layers for the tails, created a magnificent flowing effect, as the dancers moved effortlessly through the ‘sea’.
Set designer Kimie Nakano used mirrors, reflective surfaces and the somewhat untraditional glowing jellyfish and fish puppets to transport the stage to the ocean floor.
The effect was of a dreamlike quality.The combination of this creativity, with the ethereal beauty of the sequinned costumes, meant the audience were treated to a production that often looked as magical as the story itself.
Scene changes were seamless as the dancers moved set in choreographed pieces, assisting the flow of the narrative beautifully. For example, as the mermaid swam the rocks would swim with her at one point, becoming a great ship.
Some of the most aesthetically harmonious elements happened when the dancers themselves became the set of the sea, through the plethora of their green and blue fluttering costumes. This more than anything breathed real life into the stage before the eyes of the audience.
David Nixon’s vision is fluidly brought to life through his direction of The Little Mermaid. The dancers, choreography and costume design have come together to masterfully create a homogenous and mesmerising production. Exquisitely performed, this is a visually breathtaking adaptation of a classic tale.
The Little Mermaid
Image: Emma Kauldhar