Interview: Laura Stevens – 'Young minds have an innate capacity to connect with a story'

This article is from 2016

Interview: Laura Stevens – 'Young minds have an innate capacity to connect with a story'

Edinburgh-based director follows up last year's Fringe hit with another female heroine in Mermalade

Little girls grow up surrounded by stories of damsels in distress, inspiring them to wait for a man to solve all their problems. So it's always refreshing to come across a tale that proffers another way of getting things done – as Land of the Dragons did at last year's Fringe.

Back for a second year, director Laura Stevens is hopeful that Mermalade will be an equally big hit with Fringe audiences.

'Mermalade, much like the princess in Last of the Dragons, embodies all the qualities of a strong female role model,' she says. 'She is brave, intelligent, perceptive, courageous and doesn't give up – ever. But she is also human, has faults, makes mistakes, questions authority and is afraid of what will happen next.'

Stevens ran Manhattan Children's Theatre in New York for almost a decade, before relocating to Edinburgh, where she continues to make work to engage family audiences. What, for her, is the secret of a good children's show?

'A story with a clear beginning, middle and end that never seeks to over explain or tell the audience what to think or feel,' says Stevens. 'Because even more than adults, young minds have an innate capacity to connect with a story. Also characters that are honest and real, and actors that can adjust to the needs of each audience.'

Based on the book by Clare Cockburn-Martin, Mermalade tells the tale of a mermaid who finds a cryptic note, three oysters who befriend her, and the baritone-voiced God of Thunder who thinks he knows it all.

'Mermalade drives the story forward via her quest,' explains Stevens. 'But she can't be a heroine if there's no one else around to witness her bravery – so enter the chatty oysters who span three generations, offering comic relief and their perspective on life.'

Pleasance Courtyard, 6–29 Aug (not 17 & 18, 22–24), 11.15am, £7.50–£10 (£6.50–£9). Preview 5 Aug, £6.


Laura Stevens / Manhattan Children's Theatre A little mermaid she is not. Left with a note, a pearl, and three annoying oysters for company, Mermalade is determined to make sense of it all. She is brave enough to confront the biggest entities in the Universe. She is strong enough to stand up to those getting in her way.