Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks' storybook is transformed into a charming stage production filled with visual and aural delight
Attention to detail is everywhere in Little Angel's adaptation of The Singing Mermaid. Julia Donaldson and Lydia Monks may have provided the characters, rhyming text and design, but the theatre company has taken it from there and made the story its own. Most notably with its addition of beautiful music and song, threaded throughout the narrative.
Laura McEwen's set design is a joy to behold before the show has even started. A big top strewn with colourful bunting and baubles doubles as our heroine's seaside home, with even the footlights shaped like shells. Elaine Hartley, Samuel Dutton and Steinunn McQueen are all astute puppet handlers, filling the space with crabs, jellyfish, seabirds and fish that swim through the air alongside the performers' exquisite vocal harmonies.
Filling a 55-minute show with a story you can read out loud in less than ten minutes takes imagination and energy, and Little Angel has both in spades. All of the Mermaid's fellow-circus acts are given a chance to shine, from juggling on a unicycle to tightrope walking – with each puppet dressed by designer Lyndie Wright just as Monks intended. While Samuel Dutton as the money-grabbing meany, Sam Sly truly evokes the spirit of the circus ring with devilish wit.
Julia Donaldson is known for her sing-song narrative style, and Barb Jungr has tapped into that perfectly with her specially written music and lyrics, that feel integral rather than an add-on to Donaldson's original story.