The Little Mermaid – dir. Elitsa Petkova

Magdalena Kovacheva

Production team

Author Hans Christian Andersen
Translated by Svetoslav Minkov *
Dramatization and direction by Elitsa Petkova
Scenography and costumes: Ivaylo Nikolov, Iva Gikova
Composer Plamen Petkov
Multimedia Teodor Kiryakov
Participants: Augustina-Kalina Petkova, Alexander Yordanov, Vladislav Stoimenov, Venceslav Dimitrov, Dimitar Ivanov – Mitch, Ralitsa Tudzharo, Sofia Treyman, Maya Baburska.

“Far, far out in the open sea the water is blue as the petals of the finest blueberry, clear as the clearest glass. But it is very deep – so deep that no anchor rope reaches the bottom… The marine population lives down there.” *

Thus begins the beautiful tale of “The Little Mermaid” by HC Andersen. And it is from here, from the bottom of the sea, that the premiere performance of the Youth Theater with director Elitsa Petkova begins.

The dramatization, (also by Elitsa Petkova), surprised me with its punctuality and lightness. It is focused on the themes of love and diversity; the clash between two unknowable worlds: change and the struggle between good and evil; the personal price we pay to achieve or have the things we so ardently desire; the inability to communicate; confronting the established order and norms. This thematic variety corresponds in a balanced way with the individual elements of the theater mechanism – scenography, costumes, multimedia, music, acting.

The scenography of Ivaylo Nikolov and Iva Gikova clearly outlines the two main spaces of development of the action, namely that of the sea kingdom and that of the terrestrial world. The huge movable structure of the stage, which is actually the royal throne in one act and the prince’s ship in another, and swings on which the mermaids swing ethereally and create the feeling of fluidity of movement in the water, visualize the sea kingdom. The terrestrial world, which is not characterized by actual elements – a detail that refers us from the luxuriance of the marine world to the desolation of the terrestrial one – is separated from the marine one by a drapery hanging from a high, finely woven fabric, which represents the waves of the sea. Thus, the conventionally divided scene of worlds makes it possible to simultaneously follow the action developing in the two parallel spaces – on the sea and on the ground.

The theme of movement in the water is skilfully conveyed through the costumes, the work of Ivaylo Nikolov and Iva Gikova, and the multimedia of Teodor Kiryakov. For example, mermaids are dressed in sparkling costumes, fueling their charm and fabulousness. They all have long colored hair and move carefully with a roller skate on one foot and a high platform shoe on the other. Pomoime – a big challenge for actresses!

Adding to the feeling of undersea movement is the costume of the king-father, dressed in a long blue robe, crowned with a high crown and “carrying” behind him silver helium balloons, attached to the thin royal plume, which move quite smoothly and subtly at his every move. The immersive multimedia also enhances the sense of movement on and in the water through countless appearing and disappearing bubbles against which the story of The Little Mermaid is presented.

In terms of music, I can only express my admiration for the composer Plamen Petkov, who decorated the show with sheet music. The music feeds emotionally what is happening on stage with its melodiousness and creates a playful mood, a sense of danger or nostalgia. She is in harmony with the acting, from which we saw a little mermaid (Augustina-Kalina Petkova) – energetic, decisive and bringing the necessary dynamics for the development of the theatrical production; two beautiful mermaid sisters (Ralitsa Tujaro and Sofia Treyman) who are no less naughty than the little mermaid, but just not in love like her. And more… a king (Alexander Yordanov), who is characterized by selective reactions and indomitability in his decisions; a sea witch (Maya Baburska) who chills you with her look and voice; a prince (Dimitar Ivanov – Mitch) who longs for an unearthly beautiful and different girl with a characteristic melancholy of his royal personality; a faithful servant of the prince (Vladislav Stoimenov), who makes us laugh with his devotion to him and overexposed reactions and speech; some sea creatures (Venceslav Dimitrov), who at the very beginning start chanting their favorite song that “we are best here under the blue sea”.

Everything said so far shows how complex and dynamic the spectacle is, which not only awakens the viewer’s sensibilities, but also asks its own questions about the meaning of life. In this context, I would like to focus attention on a few scenes whose directorial decisions left a wonderful impression on me.

One of them is the scene with the raging storm and the sinking of the prince – the ethereal textile waves rose up and created the feeling of the depth of the sea, the music oozed tension, the multimedia bubbles frantically roamed the waves, and the lighting added to the drama of the scene in which The little mermaid saves the prince from drowning. This scene was so emotionally charged that in the silence after it ended, when both actors and audience had fallen silent, I heard a child in the audience boldly ask, “Is everyone okay?”

No less impressive was the scene with the signing of the contract between the little mermaid and the sea witch, who promised her to fulfill her wish – to become a human. The terms of the contract, which take away not only the Little Mermaid’s voice but also her freedom, are multimedialy constructed from what she will become if the prince does not fall in love with her – sea foam. This transformation from mermaid to human has cruel consequences for the extraterrestrial being. She becomes an ordinary person who does not arouse the prince’s interest as she did when she was an ethereal, fairy-like creature of the vast expanse of the sea. She loses her belonging and no world is hers anymore.

Here comes one of the most impressive scenes in the play, when the prince is placed between the soul of the Little Mermaid (the actress herself), who talks, laughs, sings, swims, discovers, dreams, loves, and the human body of the Little Mermaid – a doll with human combat that occurs immediately after the signing of the contract and represents the dehumanization of the mermaid. “Mermaids have no human soul and can only win it with human love. Their eternal life is in the power of another.” * The prince is placed at the crossroads between the imperishable and the perishable, between the dream and the real, between loneliness and longing. But he is “just a man”, burdened with the human limitation of not seeing beyond the visible, “couldn’t see the magical creatures”, which becomes a prerequisite for The Little Mermaid to pay the ultimate price for her love for him – with her life, and to turn into sea foam.

The performance unfolds the whimsicality of a possible fairy tale – for the Little Mermaid it is love with a human being in the earthly world, and for the man – love with a mystical beauty from the sea kingdom. In fact, for both of them, there is an impossible reality that they would like to be a part of… isn’t that true for each and every one of us? But she – the woman – has accepted her lot, swinging on her swing in the last scene of the play, saying goodbye to the prince and the audience with the words “To believe (in fairy tales) is somehow naive. Naive, isn’t it?’

Funded by National Culture Fund.