Friday, 13 December 2013

The Little Mermaid at Bristol Old Vic

The Bristol Old Vic’s Christmas show has rightly earned itself pride of place in the theatre diary – circled on the calendar in silver pen and decorated with shiny stars. In recent years, we’ve seen the magnificent Swallows and Amazon, the mind-blowing Peter Pan, and the far-from-festive but resolutely brilliant Coram Boy. This year, Hans Christian Anderson’s much-loved tale The Little Mermaid got the Bristol Old Vic treatment.

The title role is filled by Katie Moore – who is not only a damn fine actor, but also an incredible singer and fabulous ballerina. As the Little Mermaid, we followed Katie in her underwater world where she lived with her father (played by Old Vic favourite Tristan Sturrock) and sisters… frustrated by the confines of her subterranean life and longing to explore the world up there where the ‘hoo muns’ live.

However, the wicked Sea Witch (a heart-warmingly brilliant Beverly Rudd, in an example of perfect casting) has a firm hold on the underwater world and insists all her citizens stay below the surface, avoid all interactions with the legged ones, and keep singing to ensure the constantly rolling tides.

Needless to say, our adventurous heroine doesn’t follow the rules… and on a trip to the surface, she can’t stop herself from saving the life of a handsome prince (delightfully played by Billy Howle) who is thrown overboard in a storm orchestrated by the Sea Witch. The prince is under a curse where he simply must marry before his looming 18th birthday… and this is where our above and below the waves stories combine.

Under Simon Godwin’s direction, Joel Horwood’s adaptation of The Little Mermaid is a magical, enchanting and captivating Christmas adventure for Bristolians of every age. The set design throughout is inspired… and the use of a curving metal frame to suggest the rolling waves works extremely well, as does the porthole frame to the whole stage.

As the Sea Witch, Beverly Rudd excels and I found myself missing her when she wasn’t on stage. And her sidekicks (a wise-cracking crab and eel dressed in knitted chainmail) are inspired – the armour-wearing crab quite possibly stole the entire show and had me clapping my claws in child-like glee!

The Little Mermaid is performed at Bristol Old Vic until January 18. Click here for more informationand to book tickets. 

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