It was appropriately rainy as I made my way to the Riverside Studios for their aquatic festive offering of The Little Mermaid. Presented by Blind Tiger Theatre Company, this new interpretation of Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale weaves together the timeless story of the Little Mermaid and the saga of Andersen’s own life as a young man in Copenhagen.
The wealthy Collin family takes Andersen in when he is a young man, and Jonas Collin supports him through his education and early career. However, Andersen is never entirely comfortable in the Collins’ social circle, instead finding solace and escape in his writing. Blind Tiger’s adaptation draws parallels between Andersen’s social estrangement and that of The Little Mermaid, who yearns for something beyond the watery confines of her sub-aquatic royal home. Both struggle as they fall in love with people who don’t love them back, or at least don’t return their feelings in the way that either would hope.
The simple set allows for the story to take centre stage, as the studio theatre is draped in white sheets onto which colour is projected to give the impression of fireworks or water. The action moves seamlessly between Andersen’s world and the underwater tale of the Mermaid, thanks to clever cast doubling and creative costuming. The entire cast was very strong, but Anthony Pinnick gave a particularly moving performance as Young Andersen, spilling over with earnestness and enthusiasm as a young writer, but silently enduring palpable and heart-breaking emotional anguish.
…performed with plenty of nautical gusto…
The unique aspect of Blind Tiger’s approach to adapting The Little Mermaid is the way in which they fuse music and drama together in a seamless narrative. The music is an organic part of the piece and all the cast members double as musicians and percussionists. The score took in a wide variety of musical styles from beautifully soft piano melodies to rousing ensemble sea shanties that were performed with plenty of nautical gusto. Blind Tiger’s The Little Mermaid is an innovative and poignant re-interpretation that explores a less-familiar side to the famous tale and Andersen’s own life.
The Little Mermaid runs until the 20 January
Tickets are from £15-20. Concessions available.