Holly&Ted's Little Mermaid adaptation is frivolous feminist fun
This article is from 2016.
As the story of a young girl who sacrifices her voice for the chance to lock lips with the first man she sees, the feminist credentials of The Little Mermaid are not immediately apparent. With Pond Wife, however, theatre-makers Holly Norrington and Teddy Lamb attempt to redress this latent sexism, adapting Hans Christian Andersen's classic tale into a timely allegory about growing up at the turn of the 21st century.
Pond Wife's mermaid protagonist serves as an avatar for the millennial adolescent. Forgoing life in the sea for three days in order to hear the music of the human world, the show is a story of self-discovery and the strength of sisterhood. If key elements of the admittedly familiar story are skipped over, Pond Wife does a wonderful job of bringing to life the mermaid's journey from sea to land, making imaginative use of an electric fan and a handful of glitter to inject some magic into the story.
To illustrate the dominance of cultural consumption as a means of constructing identity in the modern world, the production resurrects the soundtrack of its millennial setting.
Deliriously camp lip-syncing sequences, and the mermaid's star-struck reaction upon meeting her newfound musical hero, highlight the profound developmental influence of musicians on young people's lives. Though returns begin to diminish on the production's repeated visits to the well of late-90s nostalgia, their reverence for these artists is endearingly sincere and reinforces the production's examination of contemporary teenage life.
But though charming, the show's relentless positivity has a negative effect of the strength of its cultural critique. Avoiding the darker realities of life in a mediatised world, where body image ideals proliferate and pop stars are idolised, the show ends in a glib, slightly cloying conclusion, having only scratched the surface of the issue at hand.
Nonetheless, what Pond Wife lacks in depth, it makes up for with bright visuals and imagination in spades. Though its subject matter and relentless 90s nostalgia will have particular resonance with millennial audiences, Holly and Ted's sunny performances and infectious sense of fun have a universal appeal.
Underbelly, Cowgate, until 28 Aug, 1.20pm, £9–£10 (£8–£9).