Journey with us to meet Spirallina, a mermaid who has left her solitary underwater world for a life on land. Spirallina loves to meet people and make friends, telling them about her life above and below the waves.
But when she looks in the mirror, Spirallina knows she is different. As she sits and reflects, Spirallina wonders if this is good or bad? Is it OK to be different from everyone else around her – or would it be better if she was just the same? Mermaid and the Mirror took audiences to a magical place, where two different worlds embrace, with unexpected outcomes….
Mermaid and the Mirror offered young audiences a unique theatrical experience celebrating and exploring difference, informing emerging opinions about disabilities at an early age. It was originally developed as apart of Exchange for Change in 2004 under the name Spirallina’s Tail. The production was presented in association with the London Disability Xposure 2005 Festival, and toured London venues.
“A little girl’s image of a mermaid nowadays is often based around the Disney beauty who finds happiness with a handsome human.
Beauty also plays its part in this show aimed at three to seven-year-olds, but there are some subtle messages to take on board as well. For a start, the production is part of Xposure – the annual London-wide disability arts festival – and features disabled actress Mandy Colleran. This factor could initially influence an adult’s perception of the work, but the children have no problem believing in her performance.
Indeed the majority sit entranced as Colleran chats to seagull Gilbert, frantically searches for her treasured mirror or makes friends with a little girl playing on the water’s edge. When she talks about what it is like being different, we are able to see that work within the context of the piece and beyond.
All of these scenes are neatly staged by Sally Cookson, while Colleran’s dialogue, mime and song encourage the young audience to use its imagination. John O’Hara’s music is wonderfully atmospheric, as are Jo Paul’s seaworld designs and Fred Beaufort’s lighting.
Once the lights go up the children are encouraged to chat to the mermaid and stroke her beautiful long hair and sparkling tail. As they leave, they talk of nothing else.”
Lisa Martland, The Stage, 14 November 2005
“A one-woman show about the life of a mermaid has just opened in London, designed to help young children to understand differences.
The Mermaid and the Mirror is part of the Xposure05 disability arts festival in the capital.
It features disabled actress Mandy Colleran, and is aimed at children aged three to seven.
The play, by Half Moon Young People’s Theatre, is part of the company’s commitment to young audiences.
Young children are introduced to Spirallina, a mermaid who lies on a rock on the beach and who is keen to make friends.
But looking at her reflection, Spirallina realises that she is different, and wonders whether this is good or bad.
“I’ve always wanted to develop the character of a mermaid,” Mandy Colleran told the BBC News website. “It’s a very interesting metaphor for being female and also for being disabled and female.”
During the performance Spirallina remains on her rock but has encounters with Gilbert the seagull and a little girl playing on the beach. Although never seen, these imaginary characters seem completely real to the young audience who sit in rapt silence.
“It’s amazing that if you give children a chance to use their imagination, they will,” said Colleran. She says that because of the nature of her impairment – she is an electric wheelchair user and quite small – she gets a lot of attention from children.
“I actually really like it. They’re always really fascinated, and I love engaging with them – it’s always healthier to answer their questions.”
At the end of the show Colleran remains on stage and gradually the children in the audience feel confident enough to go up and talk to her. “They completely believe the piece and they want to know things like whether my hair is real.” She says that while children are often taught about differences, they are seldom given a chance to reflect upon what they mean.
The Mermaid and the Mirror marks the opening of Xposure05 – a month-long showcase of the visual and performing arts in London.”
Geoff Adam-Spink, BBC, 4 November 2005