In the blue glow of the Atlantis Lounge on Waymouth Street, a small gathering chatted away while waiting for the Cabaret Fringe performance Rusalka to begin.

It was suitable that Art vs Science’s 2009 hit “Flippers” played in the background, when all of a sudden a mermaid appeared in a fisherman’s net above singing “Part of Your World” from Disney’s The Little Mermaid.

The mermaid in the net manoeuvred her long pink tail in a range of aerial stunts, which left me aghast as I saw the hard concrete floor below.

What followed was a range of acts from local production company Cirque Nocturne. Together, they weaved mystical tales of mermaid folklore between each act.

The acts made the most of the small circular stage they had to work with. Old sailor’s tales of sirens calling ships to shore and mysterious wives with nautical secrets preceded dances with silks, mesmerising seductions with fire and an unsettling belly dance by a woman with green skin.

Apart from a few technical delays with the soundtrack in sections, the captivating stories kept me intrigued.

There were hoop tricks and a contemporary dance with blue ribbons. But it all peaked with the story of the Rusalka (or Rusalki in plural form). Slavian legend says the Rusalki are spirits of nineteeth century Russian women who took their lives by drowning due to unhappy marriages. Many believe the Rusalki haunt the waterways in which they died.

This is when the attention turned to the giant aquarium in the middle of the room. A pair of mermaid tails flipped in the water and then descended to reveal two beautiful mermaids. They flitted about, blew kisses and put the audience in a trance. It was a great way to end a fascinating local cabaret performance about an enigmatic subject that continues to evoke wonder today.

4 stars ****

You can see Rusalka this weekend with their final show at the Atlantis Lounge on Saturday, June 17 at 7.30pm. Pick up your tickets HERE