Review: Light and shade with The Little Mermaid

Went swimmingly… The Little Mermaid by Le Petit Artiste
4 Nov 2013 @ 2.41 pm
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Went swimmingly… The Little Mermaid by Le Petit Artiste
Went swimmingly… The Little Mermaid by Le Petit Artiste

Review: The Little Mermaid by Le Petit Artiste
Venue: York Explore Library, October 28

In this overly sanitised age it’s easy to forget that classic children’s tales are not only fun and fantastical, but dappled with the darkness of adversity and even mortality.

Children’s theatre company Le Petit Artiste brought a three-person production of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid to York Explore Library, which offered its young audience an experience of storytelling through theatre that was not only lively and engaging, but also true to the sadness of the original story, minus the Disneyfication of more recent tellings.

That’s not to say there weren’t plenty of upbeat moments for the kids in the audience to enjoy; live guitar playing and singing carried the storyline along buoyantly, passages of choreography brought the stage area to life and there was a chance for the audience to jive along to the action themselves.

The cast expressed themselves in charmingly larger than life manner and kept just enough light in the mix to offset the shade.

For there was a great deal of shade here. Ariel fears the nothingness which follows death, has her voice literally cut out with a blade by the conniving witch and ends up as bubbles on the surface of an unforgiving ocean.

Part of me worried that for the kids this might all be a bit too much, but actually they took it in their stride.

This got me thinking. To raise children to believe in a picture perfect fantasy world in which errors have no consequence and harm befalls nobody is to raise them irresponsibly – how could they be prepared for the inevitable sadnesses which must befall them later in life, in the real world, if they’re raised to believe in “happily ever after”?

In offering a balanced take on The Little Mermaid, Le Petit Artiste gave their infant audience not just an entertaining experience of a classic tale, complete with song, dance, bubbles and brash characters, but also an insight into the nature of the world and a moral lesson to carry through life: be careful what you wish for…