Thursday, 27 July 2017

First Impressions of The Little Mermaid

Standard YouTube Licence

Northern Ballet  Beneath the Surface  26 July 2017 18:00 Stanley & Audrey Burton Theatre

I attended David Nixon's presentation of extracts from his new ballet, The Little Mermaid, which, ironically, Northern Ballet will premiere at one of the most southern venues in the United Kingdom on 21 Sept 2017. From the little bits on show last night, it looks quite promising.  The presentation was recorded and is available on Northern Ballet's YouTube channel which I have embedded above so you can make up your own minds about the show.

What I enjoyed particularly last night was the music which is by Sally Beamish. As Nixon said. she wrote the score for David Bintley's The Tempest which I described as "enchanting" in my review of the 8 Oct 2016, I also liked some of the extracts, particularly the solo when the mermaid. danced by Abigail Prudames, discovers her new legs. Stranded on the shore she experiences pain for the first time. Prudames communicated that sensation chillingly. Much as Edvard Munch does in The Scream.

Yesterday's presentation was very different from Casanova Unmasked in Feb when Kenneth Tindall appeared with Nixon and his dramaturge, John Kelly., with Kerry Muzzey listening in from Los Angeles. Except for the dancers and the Q & A at the end, it was very much a one man show. I guess that is because Nixon is his own librettist as well as his own costume designer.

Hans Christian Andersen's stories have inspired at least two other works this year: Sir Matthew Bourne's Red Shoes which has recently finished its UK tour and Paul Chantry's Sandman for his own company which will launch in September.  I know of at least one other version of The Little Mermaid, namely Christopher Moore's for Ballet Theatre UK which I reviewed in Pure Delight - BTUK's Little Mermaid in Southport 27 April 2014. This is not a happy story but then not all ballets are. La Bayadère is not exactly a bundle of laughs and nor is Giselle, Romeo and Juliet or Swan Lake.

I was intrigued by at least one aspect of the scenario which Nixon did mention in his speech and I was surprised that nobody asked it in the Q & A.  I did get the chance to put it to Nixon at the reception which followed the presentation. The questions that were asked were not all that probing. Patsy-patsy stuff about whether dancers really do feel pain - try one of the Academy's adult ballet classes, madam, then you'll know. Another question seemed to be about the health and safety issues of doing Macmillan and some other choreographer.  Nixon responded by discussing the artistic challenges in shifting from one choreographer to another which was much more interesting, The questioner intervened to say that he had answered the question that she had intended to ask. "I know you so well," he replied kindly.

The Little Mermaid will snake its way round the country between opening night and Leicester on 8 May 2018. No plans to open in London or Manchester (or even Salford) and it will not hit Yorkshire until the 26 Nov when it will open in Sheffield followed by a stint in Leeds.

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