Originally created in 2007, this adaptation of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid is the fifth production by Teatro Kismet to tour the UK since 1994. It’s easy to see why this Italian company keeps being invited back. The work has a cross-generational appeal and is typically put across with great visual flair. This take on Andersen’s dark and fishy tale of sacrificial love by the writer-director Teresa Ludovico is no exception. Touring the UK until July 3 under the auspices of Warwick Arts Centre, Coventry, the hour-long performance has been deemed suitable for ages 8 and above.
Designed by Luca Ruzza with a simple grandeur, the show contains some indelibly poetic images including a finale that’s as graceful, delicate and touching as could be wished. The route to that magical ending is, however, more than a mite choppy. At times Ludovico seems to be playing against her own strengths.
Take the opening passage. The scene is set neatly by a wispy but engaging female narrator (Raffaella Gardon) and her sweetly lumbering animal companion (Valerio Tambone). But as soon as they slip away the heroine’s loquacious Nanny Tuna barges onstage, her litany of complaints sprinkled with supposedly witty wordplay. Although Eugenia Amisano delivers it with gusto, I longed for her to shut up. Ludovico also tries spicing things with a few cultural anachronisms. Example: the lovely, limber Daria Menichetti’s spirited teenage mermaid is introduced with a French rendition of the kitsch-pop classic Itsy Bitsy Teeny Weenie Yellow Polka Dot Bikini.
The show’s bouncy, commedia-influenced side feels slightly laboured, and yet the piece, however fitfully, casts a spell. The sense of acute pain catches at the heart. It’s evident in the desperate desire of Tambone’s Prince to hear the mermaid’s voice again, and in the brutal bargain she strikes with Amisano’s Sea Witch. And the poignant, almost ceremonial beauty of the closing moments is like a balm.