Northern Ballet makes a highly-anticipated return to Newcastle bringing Hans Christian Andersen’s classic fairy tale – The Little Mermaid – to life (Tue 25 – Sat 29 Oct 2022).

We caught up with David Nixon CBE, Artistic Director of Northern Ballet (2001-2022) and Choreographer, Director and Costume Designer for The Little Mermaid.

Why did you choose the original Hans Christian Andersen story? Did you look at other sources during your research?

I always go back to the source material. During my research I did watch some opera adaptations of The Little Mermaid and the 1975 Japanese anime film that came before the Disney version.

I didn’t watch the Disney version because I didn’t want to be influenced by it. Hans Christian Andersen’s story is the original and I like to be as true to the core of something as possible, so the ballet is really just drawn from his story. Disney for me is wonderful yet in certain ways it misrepresents the fairytales it adapts. I think that with The Little Mermaid there is a reason that it is not a ‘happily ever after’ story.

Why do you think so many classic fairytales adapted for ballet?

I think ballet has historically been perceived as a fantasy art form –  look at Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, La Sylphide, Giselle… they’re all very romantic and fairytale-like ballets. These classic ballets also came out of an era where people read a lot of fairytales. Ballet didn’t really deal with ‘real’ stories until the last century.

Fairytales are great when you’re looking at creating a ballet for the whole family to come to and enjoy, because families usually share these stories which gives you a common ground with the audience.

How does the set conjure the underwater world of The Little Mermaid?

The sets are made up of plastic and mirror to create a phenomenal water look. It’s quite a contemporary look because the ballet isn’t set in real concrete worlds. It’s quite imaginative.

What does the little mermaid look like?

We wanted our little mermaid, Marilla, to have a slightly alien look when she becomes a “human” – because from my perspective she’s never a true human. I think it’s a bit of an odd idea that mermaids are just humans with a tail it’s a fish! Even when Marilla loses her tail and becomes a woman she’s not human.

She also can’t speak which makes her even more of a ‘creature’ rather than a human to the people around her – a beautiful creature, something exotic that moves in a different way but still kind of alien.

Marilla and her sisters do have tails and they dance beautifully with it – you will have to come to see the ballet to find out how.

What do you think the overall message of the story of The Little Mermaid is?

It’s a story about dreams and aspirations, as well as naivety. Marilla thinks that because she loves somebody they will love her back. She is struck by the Prince right away and sacrifices so much to become a woman, naively thinking that by doing so they will be together. It is a story about absolute love.

When he marries someone else, although heartbroken she is selfless – she is presented with the opportunity to go back to the water world, but by doing a deed that would destroy the one person that she has felt completely committed to. She makes the choice not to do that.

That’s what I think is the lesson of the story – there are choices in life that do mean that we don’t get what we want, but they are the right choices morally.

The Little Mermaid plays at Newcastle Theatre Royal from Tue 25 – Sat 29 Oct 2022. Tickets are priced from £15.00 and can be purchased at www.theatreroyal.co.uk or from the Theatre Royal Box Office on 0191 232 7010.

Discover more from Home

Subscribe now to keep reading and get access to the full archive.

Continue reading