"A Bildungsroman tale for today"
by Rebecca Wall for remotegoat on 04/11/17

‘The River Girl’ is an anti-fairy tale that begins, as many a fable does, with love at first sight: as the sun rises over the Thames an aspiring poet seeks and fails to find inspiration for his verse, until, that is, he spies a beautiful maiden swimming in its waters. His admiration is reciprocated by our heroine, Isis, an otherworldly and seemingly immortal creature usually at home in the river’s depths. In a scene reminiscent of Italian opera she seeks her father’s permission to leave his realm to be with her human lover, and as in opera we have a premonition that she will not live happily ever after.

While Puccini might give us melodrama, here our tale descends into the bathos and pretension of suburban dinner parties, the selfishness of artists and poets, and the infidelity of men. The swift descent from the bliss of infatuation into domestic purgatory is one with which many of us can no doubt identify, and makes the play into a coming of age tale for the modern age (with only the lack of Tinder hinting at its origins in the early 90s). Some might perhaps find the plot, with its total lack of redemption for the relationship, a little lacking in nuance, but this was more than made up for by the beauty and artistry of the production, and the magical experience of the Puppet Barge overall. Perhaps it helped to have the backdrop of fireworks shimmering over the canal as I made my way through Little Venice to the barge, and swans swimming around it, but I could not rate the experience highly enough. It would be perfect for a date night - just perhaps not ‘The River Girl’ if your romance is in its infancy...

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