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Little Mermaid review at the Egg, Bath – ‘edifying, imaginative and passionate’

Scene from Little Mermaid at the Egg, Bath. Photo: Nick Spratling Scene from Little Mermaid at the Egg, Bath. Photo: Nick Spratling

Bea Roberts’ Little Mermaid for the Egg theatre in Bath is, without exaggeration, a thing of beauty. Hans Christian Andersen’s fairytale is mixed with British folklore ancient and modern in a story of teenage rebellion, feminism and, eventually, love.

Morgan (Anna Wheatley) is a young mermaid princess more interested in books than marriage. Her under-the-sea existence is one of delicately faded glamour – part collapsing Antebellum architecture, part tide-stained 1950s prom queens – all brought gorgeously to life through Zoe Squire’s design that employs colours akin to dirt-covered My Little Ponies.

This mermaid’s escape to dry land has her zoom through time to David Bowie and Cyndi Lauper-era discos in Torquay.

There are endless and inventive periphery details and characters, from an Austro-Hungarian walrus to Bertrand the Left Bank Lobster, along with sea-based puns galore (“Look what the catfish dragged in”). The star, however, is the mullet-wearing, voguing Selkie (Emile Clarke), tasked with explaining to Morgan that, even in the English Riviera in the 1980s, not all people can marry who they wish.

As with the best of Sally Cookson and Kneehigh, Little Mermaid is an edifying, imaginative and passionate piece of family theatre. It’s absolutely in need of a 2018 transfer.

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Triumphant, fiercely feminist and love-filled refashioning of The Little Mermaid