Theatre review: The Little Mermaid (4 stars)

Theatre review: The Little Mermaid

credit: Paul Watt

Fishy tale from panto grand dame

Heeeeeere's Johnny...The undisputed king of panto is back. Despite being absent from this performance through a thigh injury, this disco-charged spectacular still sparkles as brightly as a hundred Kylie box sets.

The well-worn story of the cursed Ariel, adapted more from the Disney cartoon version than traditional story by Hans Christian Anderson, is given the usual zesty Zeitgeist-driven dialogue: everyone from Kim Kardashian to Joey Essex gets a McKnight tongue-lashing. Some scary segments freak out younger kids, but the gorgeous bubbly design by Karen Tennent means everyone feels a warm glow.

What the performance lacks in McKnight presence, it more than makes up for with a strong cast, particularly Dawn Sievewright as sardonic diva Ariana and Helen McAlpine who relishes her role as predatory Priscilla, while understudy Robert Sharpe is rather fab as creepy Ursulla.

A charming lead performance by Kara Swinney as the hapless mermaid Ariel (both she and Sievewright have glorious singing voices) completes an effortless female-focused group with funny bones, something McKnight has always deployed.

Even the groan-inducing puns aren't grating, particularly enjoyable in the hands of Robert Jack's cheeky if hapless Drop Dead Gorgeous Daz, whose patter seems to be clean off a lolly stick collection. Can you fillet? The audience clearly can, squids in with this underwater romp, which is as mischievous as it is stuffed to the gills with charm and pathos. Fin and dandy for the festive season.

The Little Mermaid

Christmas panto written, directed and starring Johnny McKnight.

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