The Little Mermaid: The Gaiety puts on a near-perfect pantomime

Hans Christian Andersen’s fairy tale is merely the hook for a spectacular production

THE LITTLE MERMAID

Gaiety Theatre, Dublin
★★★★☆
The Gaiety Theatre celebrates its 150th birthday this year by offering audiences the gift of a near-perfect pantomime. The theme this year is The Little Mermaid – Hans Christian Andersen's fairy tale is really only a hook on which Daryn Crosbie, the production's writer, director and choreographer, can display the talents of his collaborators.

From the underwater opening, in which Ariel (the sweet-voiced Ciara Lyons) swims across the stage, mermaid tail shimmering, to the stomach-churning shipwreck that propels the plot on, Crosbie employs a blend of physical sets and digital projections to create an immersive environment throughout the auditorium. A fake proscenium arch is decorated with barnacles and cockles, and inflatable tentacles hang from the upper circle. There are fireworks on stage and bubbles drifting down from the chandelier.

If the fairy-tale ending doesn't put a tear in your eye, Joe Conlan's closing address at the curtain call – a passionate plea to support the arts – might just do the trick

Pauline McCaul’s costumes facilitate the most exciting entrances and exits. Witness Ursula (Emma Wigglesworth) shed her squid skin as she disappears into a floor trap only to re-emerge in an equally spectacular flash of light as the seductive Vanessa (Linzi Cowap). Watch Ariel’s best friend Sebastian (Michael Joseph) sidle on to the stage in vibrant red, crab claws snapping. See Slip and Slide shimmy from the wings on scooters in Day-Glo gear to “squidnap” Ariel on behalf of their evil mistress.

There are puns aplenty in the script, while the Gaiety house orchestra shifts effortlessly between the various musical demands, which encompass mash-ups of popular music of all genres, as well as musical-theatre classics and sound effects.

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Joe Conlan’s dame, Granny Haddock, acts as a compere of sorts, stepping out of the drama to playfully put the audience in its place, and his closing address at the curtain call – a passionate plea to support the arts – is heartfelt and moving. He tells the audience, “This is our livelihood.” He makes a gesture of inclusion to the small child chorus on stage: “This is their future.”

If the fairy-tale ending doesn't put a tear in your eye, Conlan's speech might just do the trick.

Runs at the Gaiety Theatre, Dublin, until January 6th, 2022