Friday, 10 June 2016

Charlotte Church - The Last Mermaid - review

★ - five stars

I'm nearly at a loss for words. I don't think I've ever been to the theatre and enjoyed myself so much. I made a  venn diagram of some of the influences I could see last night:

I wasn't aware that it was a kid's show until today. It certainly kept the adults entertained, as it worked on more than one level. 

The set design and lighting was beautiful. Shimmery shiny, gossamer silk, seaweed and water... the costumes were gorgeous. sumptuous, on point and decadent. Church was obviously moved by Dylan Thomas' words in Under Milk Wood, the whispered opening lines sounded like Thomas. The three singers/dancers who represented the sea, sang in unison, like a Greek chorus. The first movement was just beautiful: frenetic, but restrained. Energy contained, and controlled. Then when the last mermaid was released from her (shell? Womb?) the music and dancing was glorious.

The plastic bag dance was perfect, and hinted at the eco message of the play. Is it a play? It is, by turns, a dance, a play, an opera, a mime performance, a puppet show. It is all of these things, and none. A whole that is so much greater than its parts. The drowning fisherman moved like a man underwater - I forgot I was in a theatre, I thought I was viewing a huge water tank. The man who played him should be nominated for some sort of underwater dancing award.

The whale! Oh my days, the whale. I loved the tenor and bass singers who sang the whale, I loved their costumes, and I loved the projected presentation of the whale. A little boy sat next to me, tugged his Mum's sleeve and said "Mammy! Eye!" before he dropped his marshmallows. I genuinely had goosebumps when the whale turned her into a human - then laughed out loud at the bit on the beach. "My legs. My legs in the sun!"

My friend Nina described the next movement as "the Depeche Mode bit", I described it as "the Kraftwerk/Daft Punk bit". It was a spectacular spectacular.

Then things got a bit darker. The last mermaid's cries of "my whale" brought tears to my eyes. Church's voice was at its strongest and surest here, full of grief and love.

I won't give away the ending, it was beautiful. None of the story was overtold. None of it was laid on thick. You either got it, or you didn't. And even if you didn't, you were swept along anyway.

It was fucking magnificent. I want the LP soon please, Charlotte.

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