"Bleeding From Quill And Lips"
by Colin Hake for remotegoat on 13/12/13

The theatrical retelling of The Little Mermaid, a classic Hans Christian Andersen story, made further famous by the Disney Film, is always going to be a tough job. The current version playing at The Riverside Studios shows some potential but unfortunately struggles with this challenge.

The audience are introduced to the play by the elderly Hans himself, as the story of his life is unravelled in parallel with that of the Little Mermaid's. It is believed by some academics that many of Andersen's fairy tales recount his own emotional struggles and The Little Mermaid is said to be the most synonymous. This concept has potential, and it is clear that a lot of research has gone into the piece, but I am afraid the text and execution in this production leave a little to be desired.

The recounting of the life of the young writer, his emotional isolation from the society he found himself in and a heavy focus on his supposed homosexuality with his benefactors son, drags a little and is interjected with an unsure interpretation of The Little Mermaid and all too sparse and often low energy musical accompaniment. I felt the play itself couldn't make up it's mind as to what it wanted to be, at times not quite a 'cartoon reality', at others not quite a musical retelling. At points, the actors were fighting with the forced allegory in the writing rather than enjoying it which, for me, created an awkwardness in the connection with the audience, a connection essential for any form of narrative.

The sparse static nature of the set, seemingly dictated by the positioning of underused instruments often got in the way of the actors movements and created a number of blocking obstacles. The simple white drapes and lighting unfortunately failed to create an enchanting and flexible space and this was made further awkward by a somewhat feeble attempt at recreating one of the most amazing light shows on Earth, the Northern Lights (which I'm not sure are even visible in Copenhagen), in a small studio space.

I feel that the idea Blind Tiger have for this production is a strong one, with potential, but the piece as a whole missed it's mark for me. It delivers it's idea in an obvious manner, which, granted, in many respects is what is expected of a fairytale. However, this defined interpretation of the subjective undertones of Andersen's writing offers the audience no chance to question or take inferences for themselves.

I wasn't expecting the Disney version, nor a children's story, don't get me wrong, but feel the production could have benefited from a darker and more subtle script which allowed the audience to encounter the emotional hardships and nostalgic reflections of the writer from their own perspectives, rather than being spoon fed the obvious parallels.

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