It has been ages since the hubby and I went on a date night so we were thrilled to sneak off together to watch Mermaid at the Sherman Theatre in Cardiff last week. It was lovely to have some time together and as usual the Sherman was lively, vibrant and welcoming – a perfect date night venue. For once we had the time to sample some food from Foxy’s on site – yum!
A bold re-imagining of the children’s favourite The Little Mermaid by Hans Christian Anderson I was intrigued to see what was billed as a grown up version of the classic story. Polly Teale’s version was definitely not for the kids. Her version of Mermaid had a real dark edge and was brought back into the modern world with contemporary references.
The story is told through a troubled teenager called Blue who brings the story right into the twenty first century. Troubled by bullies, we watch her flail and flounder on land, but find her voice in telling the story of the mermaid.
The mermaid however, struggles with her own voice, losing it to the sea witch in the hope of gaining the love of her man through her beauty alone. We watch the beautiful mermaid fade away, losing her bubbly excitement, her enthusiasm and eventually her beauty itself as the stress of life on land takes its toll, bulimia takes hold and she looses herself completely.
Mermaid portrays a miserable version of life on land. The Prince is so wracked with torment after suffering from post-traumatic stress in the war that he fails to recognise that the girl before him is the one who he fell in love with when she saved him from the sea. His parents are only concerned with their public image, encouraging him to get married to please others but not himself. The mermaid – a naturally stunning beauty is plucked and preened and dressed up in such a way that she is unrecognisable, ultimately even to herself. It is a damning view of modern society.
The atmosphere of the show was seductive. The voices in the chorus were quite simply mesmerising and I was totally drawn into the romance of the story. Sadly, the Disney happy ending was not forthcoming, which left me feeling a little empty at the end. Ultimately though Polly Teale’s strong feminist message is clear. The mermaid loses her voice, her identity and ultimately herself in the search for the love of a man. The teenager Blue however beats her bullies into the background and finds her voice in narrating the story. The message therefore maybe is to be true to yourself.