With a buzz of excitement and a trail of giddy little ones clutching various Mermaid Dolls we take our seats in the Robert Bolt theatre ready for, The Tap Dancing Mermaid, Tessa Bide’s first self-devised production.
After a sell-out tour performing Niki McCretton’s Muttnik: The First Dog in Space and a stint in Glastonbury’s Big Top amongst many other successful performances, Bide transports us into the tippetty-tappety world of Marina Skippett, tap dancer extraordinaire who simply loves to dance. Sadly Marina’s evil Aunt doesn’t share this passion and cruelly bans Marina from dancing at home forcing her to take herself and her dancing down to the boardwalk in the middle of the night so she can tip and tap freely. These twilight taps come much to the delight of the moon who adores Marina’s dancing and compliments Bide’s performance by narrating the story beautifully. When Marina meets the mysterious water boy Leo, her life is transformed and will never quite be the same again.
Bide exudes enthusiasm and within minutes it’s not just the little people who are transfixed by the storyline but all of the adults present too. The experience is simply magical, with wonderful audience participation that’s not only fun but educational too; after all it’s not every Saturday afternoon you get to blow on a conch shell!
The puppets are beautifully made and Bide brings them to life with ease, it’s clear just how much she loves her work and her enthusiasm is infectious. Added touches like seashells lining the corridor leading into the theatre and the sounds of the sea all contribute to making this a totally charming experience. After the performance Bide invites the audience to the front of the theatre where she kindly answers questions from the eager audience whilst allowing them to touch and play with her lovingly crafted puppets. The fact that the whole of the audience stay behind to extend their theatre experience is testament to just how well this production has been received. Bide has certainly gained many new fans and her decision to make the long journey from her home in Bristol to visit the North West a very wise one, I for one am already looking forward to seeing her return with another perfect production.
The Tap Dancing Mermaid
Waterside Arts Centre, Sale