Wednesday, August 10

The Little Mermaid – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

Even if you’re not a Disney aficionado, everyone knows the story of The Little Mermaid: Girl meets boy, girl can’t be with boy, chaos ensues, true love prevails. It’s a true Disney classic.

However, love story aside, I was very intrigued to see how a story that predominantly occurs underwater would be portrayed onstage, so when the chance arose to see The Little Mermaid at Altrincham Garrick Playhouse, I naturally had to see it for myself. And am I glad I did!

With a dream-team of talent spearheading the dressing rooms – from renowned stage director Joseph Meighan, musical director Mark Goggins, and lesser-known at the Garrick (but still utterly fantastic) choreographer Koda Holland-Smith – it’s no wonder this show was a delight from start to finish.

Photo: Martin Ogden

Whilst one or two of the performers within this piece were a little lacklustre in the acting department, as a whole I thought the piece was performed wonderfully. It’s no surprise that the leading lady of the piece, and the show’s namesake, was sensational – there was nothing little about Emily Leeland’s performance as Ariel. Her voice was an absolute marvel, shown to full capacity in her rendition of “Part of Your World”, which gave me shivers.

Although her leading man (Shane Gibb as Prince Eric) was great and delivered both lines and songs with admirable gusto, for me the other standouts in this performance were the villains of the piece – Dawn Flint as Ursula and her two evil accomplices, Flotsam (Myles Ryan) and Jetsam (Connor Ryan). Flint’s rendition of “Poor Unfortunate Souls” was spine-tingling, while the use of puppetry to bring Flotsam and Jetsam to life was a true fait accompli and was performed to perfection. The result? This terrible trio were electrifying to watch: all 3 had incredible voices, and their chemistry together was brilliant.

Photo: Martin Ogden

A larger-than-life cast like this needs a larger-than-life set – and that’s exactly what was delivered in spades in this performance.

The stage seamlessly shifted from sea to land thanks to the remarkable work of set designer Barry Purves and his team – the clever use of simple blue fabric and wind machines was all it took to transport the audience under the sea, and it really did make each and every person feel “part of their world” (if you’ll pardon the pun).

Another element that really brought this production to life was the costume design. Even some of the West End shows I’ve seen in my time have not had costumes as elaborate and wonderful as the ones on display in this production – costume designer Mike Shaw did a truly stellar job not only creating gorgeous mermaid costumes that allowed the performers to move, sing and dance, but also setting the scene above the water too, creating an environment for Prince Eric that showed splendour, wealth and decadence.

Photo: Martin Ogden

What was truly genius was the use of footwear – each of the underwater cast members had on a pair of custom Heelys trainers, allowing them to glide across the stage as if underwater. I know what you’re thinking – Ariel and Flounder shouldn’t be wearing trainers! But this was the brilliance of the costume design: each actors’ footwear was cleverly disguised within their costume, so instead of cumbersome shoes detracting from the piece, they blended in so easily to the rest of the costume and the audience instead focused on the seamless glides across the stage that really did make you think they were underwater. This was just one of the many pieces of mastery within this show.

You don’t have to be a fan of Disney to enjoy this show – it has everything a good show should have: brilliant costumes, lighting and sets, toe-tapping songs, and most of all, a cast that are clearly loving every minute of their performance. A definite must-see!

The Little Mermaid is on at the Altrincham Garrick Playhouse until Sunday 31st October 2021 with tickets selling fast.

Reviewer: Hannah Wilde

Reviewed: 25th October 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★★