Review: Mermaid at Nuffield Theatre, Southampton

Tom Chambers as  Bobby and company in Crazy For You. Picture by Richard Davenport

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Haunting, lyrical and more than a little bit weird, Mermaid is one of the most surprising offerings to hit the south coast theatre circuit in recent months.

It’s a retelling of Hans Christian Andersen’s The Little Mermaid.

The eponymous fish-girl turns 16, longs for a life on dry land, saves a prince from drowning and, in a particularly off-colour scene, allows a sea witch to rip her out tongue to trade her tail for legs so she can finally go get her man.

Is this at heart a feminist play or a gloomy surrender to a man’s world? There is no lack of adolescent female woes lurking in its shallow depths, from ‘trainer envy’ to bulimia to the pressure to just stand there quietly and look pretty (the de-tongued mermaid cannot speak).

The cast is excellent, especially Finn Hanlon as the war veteran prince haunted by post-traumatic stress disorder. Sarah Twomey is great at the mermaid but perhaps lacks the sorrowful heart that role requires. Mermaid would suit young adults and teenagers, but parental guidance is recommended.