The Court Theatre, Bernard Street, Addington, Christchurch

13/07/2016 - 23/07/2016

Production Details

Nothing Fishy about Court’s Mermaid Tale

The Court Theatre is mixing something old with something new in a fun reinterpretation of the classic children’s fable The Little Mermaid. 

Playwright Allison Horsley has blended Hans Christian Andersen’s story with Māori myth Pania of the Reef, and injected a modern sensibility into the plot to ensure a positive message for young girls and boys alike.

In Horsley’s interpretation, mermaid Pania Junior – PJ for short – has always dreamed of visiting the world above the ocean’s surface despite the warnings from her beloved Granny Pania. When PJ finally embarks on her big AE (aboveseas experience), she saves the life of a swimmer and grows to love him along with his hometown of Christchurch. Unfortunately, there are a few things standing in the way: 1) she’s a mermaid; 2) he’s a human; and 3) the Sea Witch is after them!

With a cast of three (Rebekah Head, Isaac Pawson and Jane Leonard) playing a variety of roles including merpeople, angler fish, hammerhead sharks and humans, the show will be full of “lots of fun, action and laughs”, says director Jared Corbin. Costume Designer Sarah Douglas and Set Designer Richard van den Berg have created a world of sparkling colour beneath the sea that quickly transforms when PJ ventures to the surface.

Horsley has taken care to ensure that PJ is a mermaid who “doesn’t just fall in love at first sight” and that she is a “clever modern mermaid who knows what she wants”. Director Corbin is also happy the show combines “a good story, fun for kids of all ages and plenty of theatrical magic.” 

Kidsfest audiences are welcomed to The Court Theatre these school holidays to enjoy a tale that’s not too soppy, with some dry humour and certain to make a splash with kids of all ages. 

At The Court Theatre
as part of KidsFest 2016
13-23 July 2016 
Mon – Fri 11am and 1pm. Sat. 11am only.
Tickets: Child $10. Adult: $15. Caregivers Required.
Booking Details: 963 0870 or visit  

Rebekah Head: PJ – The Little Mermaid
Jane Leonard: Pania|Kelpie|Remora
Isaac Pawson: Dylan|Moremore|Angler Fish

Jared Corbin: Director
Richard van den Berg: Set Designer
Sarah Douglas: Costume Designer
Matt Everingham: Sound Designer
Giles Tanner: Lighting Designer|Operator
Christy Lassen: Properties Co-ordinator
Ashlyn Smith: Stage Manager 

Theatre , Family , Children’s ,

Colourful and feel-good

Review by Lindsay Clark 14th Jul 2016

It is best to set way aside all memories of the darkly fascinating tale the master Dane wrote all those years ago (it was first published in 1857). In the current version the heroine is not mute, at least when she meets her fella, and she does not have to dance ever so painfully to win his favour. The elements of peril and self-sacrifice are swept away for today’s youngsters and we have a cheerfully localised story where the mermaid PJ (Pania Junior) has a much-anticipated thirteenth birthday AE (above-water experience). The somewhat grim original is given a nod here and there, but the emphasis for this production is entertainment and colour, both of which skilled director Jared Corbin delivers with happy assurance.

At the centre of things, Rebekah Head as the enterprising mermaid is thoroughly engaging, quickly establishing the sympathetic relationship with her audience which guarantees their confident and frequent participation. This is one of the strengths of the production. Indeed it is our cooperative waving of shiny things and wholehearted singing of the Little Mermaid’s song that secures the happy ending. Her voice, surrendered in the cause of love, is back and she and her best bloke can live above or below the briny. 

On the way there, PJ’s relations are presented with lively relish by Jane Leonard (as lavender-hued granny Pania, as well as evil great aunt Kelpie in smashing ocean green) and Isaac Pawson who plays the beginner swimmer Dylan, as well as the Mer-king dad, Moremore. Both have fish roles to work with too. Their splendid puppet personae and all the properties (coordinated by Christy Lassen) contribute to the sparks ignited as the storyline unfolds. 

Credit too should be paid to Giles Tanner’s adaptation of the lighting set up for the rock opera, That Bloody Woman. The steeply angled beams give underwater transitions much appeal and show off splendid costuming (Sarah Douglas-designed) to a treat. Richard van den Berg’s neat sectioning off of the forestage and fish or sun shapes to reinforce our location above or under the sea works well, including for the hide and seek aspects of the show, as does sound design from Matthew Everington.

A lot, then, is gained from a young contemporary audience’s perspective. Plenty to see, clear goodies and baddie and many opportunities to be involved, without those rather fraught moments which sometimes see volunteers pulled up into the bright lights. Well calculated to please young punters, the production is as colourful and feel-good as one could wish. Sorry Hans. 


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