I sometimes wonder if in this country we as audience members don’t pay merely lip-service to an internationalism of theatrical outlook. Teatro Kismet’s new Hans Christian Andersen adaptation is darker in many ways than The Snow Queen; Andersen’s moral of “be careful what you wish for” offers no chance of lasting happiness for The Mermaid Princess, any more than for de la Motte Fouqué’s Undine or Dvorák’s Rusalka, her close relatives.
Terea Ludovico’s staging is quite wordy; the English version is by Stuart Rogers. There’s a tuna who is nanny to the princess Eugenia Amisano, an officious chamberlain at the prince’s court Paolo Summaria and an official narrator Raffaela Gardon. Well-choreographed movement carries the burden of the physical telling of the tale but the weight of words – even though the actors work their tongues around English very efficiently – seems to detract rather than add emphasis. Perhaps we’re too used to elements of traditional English pantomime in children’s theatre – audience participation and so on. Here its late inclusion seems to be grafted on and not really integral.
The setting by Luca Ruzza consists of a mirror floor-cloth, a watery gauze and swags of white cloth rippling at various levels and lit by Vincent Longuemare to suggest both the sea and dry land. Luigi Spezzacatene’s costumes are elaborate. The sea witch, her attendant monsters and the tuna are all bulked out in shimmering grey. The princess is draped in floor-length whites with a greenish tinge; these are ripped of when she pays for her land-legs through the loss of her voice. The prince Valerio Tambone and his would-be brides wear earth colours and bright russets.
In the title role Daria Menichetti is very moving as she matures from a girlish playfulness which yet contains a touch of malice, even of selfishness to a woman in love forced with an impossible decision. This version has her dissolving into mist at the end. The choreography blends a number of styles, from early classical ballet through to the equal formality of poses derived from the Noh theatre of Japan. I suspect that the original Tokyo audience for this adaptation might have been more comfortable with its style than the ones in England’s regions.