As a Disney fanatic, I was both excited and anxious to see Bristol Old Vic’s stage adaptation of the fairy tale classic. By Jayde Smyth
As the curtain rises, we are introduced to the Ocean Queen or Sea Witch portrayed by Beverly Rudd. Her costume was the first noticeable thing about her; it was beautifully created and gave the distinct impression of an ocean creature as it moved both with and separately from her body. Rudd was the perfect villain; she was loud, had the evil laugh down to a tea and for some reason reminded me of Dawn French but in a good way. We learn that the evil Sea Witch rules the ocean waves and all those who inhabit it, but she wants to be Queen of everything and forces the mermaids to sing the sea into a frenzy to destroy those pesky ‘who-mons.’ (That’s humans to us non mer-people.)
The Mermaid with the most beautiful voice has the ability to control the sea best, which of course, you guessed it, is our Little Mermaid played by Katie Moore. I have to say, Moore captured the innocence (or naivety) beautifully. Her high-pitched voice and excited demeanour made her seem like the 16 year old mermaid she was portraying. Her mermaid costume was truly stunning; the tail was perfectly designed to create the illusion of swimming and was beautifully decorated in a ‘fish-tail’ braid. If I had one criticism, it was that occasionally her singing was a little off key, but her characterisation of the beloved mermaid overshadowed any pitch problems.
As events transpire, the Little Mermaid falls for the “who-mon” Prince William (Billy Howle) who was a little more Prince Harry than a Prince Eric. Prince William has to choose a wife to save the sea town from being swallowed by the ocean. After being saved by our Mermaid, he is determined to marry a singing swimmer much to his mother’s dismay. Similar to Moore, Howle is able to capture the young prince’s naïve stupidity perfectly and the two together create the sickingly sweet loved up teenage couple.
We all know the rest of the story. Despite the evil Sea Witch’s scheming and magic, true love conquers all and Prince William and the Little Mermaid are able to live happily ever after on land.
The theatre and stage had been transformed into an underwater utopia, with ocean sounds filling the audience’s ears creating a calm and relaxing atmosphere until the mermaids are forced to sing. The sounds of the ocean waves crashing are fantastic, the shape of the Old Vic helps adds to the atmosphere as it creates a distinct feeling of being washed away. One of the highlights of the show was the use of the metal framing in the shape of waves that was suspended above the cast. It was something that I’d never seen done before and it worked perfectly.
Overall, the show was pretty fantastic. The costume design was utterly unique and beautiful on all of the characters. A particular favourite of mine was the Sea Witch’s henchmen, the crab and the eel that were dressed in two forms of armour but still gave the distinct shape of their creatures. The cast were talented and sounded brilliant when singing together whilst they played their own instruments. If I had one criticism, it would be that the music was a little repetitive but I did go in there expecting the classics from the Disney film. (Did I mention I was a Disney fanatic?)
The show tackled some important issues such as overprotective parenting, flying the nest and following your dreams. All the ingredients that make a perfect fairy tale.
The Bristol Old Vic has a real talent for creating unique and brilliant adaptations of classic productions. The Little Mermaid is playing until the 18th January, and it is definitely worth seeing before the start of the semester if this is what you’re into.