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Charlotte Church’s The Last Mermaid review at Wales Millennium Centre – ‘visually stunning’

Charlotte Church in The Last Mermaid at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Charlotte Church in The Last Mermaid at Wales Millennium Centre, Cardiff. Photo: Kirsten McTernan
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Commissioned for Cardiff’s inaugural Festival of Voice, Charlotte Church’s production, The Last Mermaid. owes as much to the surreal Gothic style of Tim Burton as it does to Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

Co-writer Church also performs as the eponymous mermaid, the sole survivor of a lost kingdom. Delighted at the chance to leave the water and walk on land, she finds herself in a world that, while beautiful, she struggles to understand.

The production design is visually stunning. The Weston Studio stage is deceptively empty, filled instead by video projections and atmospheric lighting. Rick Fisher bathes the set and performers in blues and greens.

The excellent design masks what is, at times, an incomprehensible production. It isn’t always clear who the characters are, and the poetic but cryptic lyrics require more unpicking than perhaps they should in a family show. Church can certainly hold her own on stage. Her vocal performance is typically superb, but she’s also a capable actor, and the supporting cast complement her well. Good as the performances are they don’t really drive the story forwards.

There are moments in this piece where you sit back and marvel at just how beautiful it is but often the narrative fails to engage. The Last Mermaid is never boring but it is at times confusing.

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Verdict
Charlotte Church’s dark underwater fable is visually stunning but convoluted
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