It has been many cold years since the country burned in a bolero of enthusiasm for Torville and Dean and their frosty pursuits. Figure skating has since lost its sheen in the popular imagination of Britain, leaving it in a near-cryogenic state. Indeed, the closest most Brits come to the ice these days is a frozen margarita and a repeat of Dancing on Ice...
But wait! The ice man cometh! This winter of discontent has an avenger in Tony Mercer, a Mr. Freeze of theatre who, recognising the artistic power of skating, assembled an internationally successful ensemble of performers and brought Sleeping Beauty on Ice to the stage.
And that's where this version of Tchaikovsky's fairytale takes wing. Following the familiar plot, Mercer's production accentuates the drama of the tale through some incredible wire-work, aerial acrobatics and unbelievable skating skills. Evil henchmen spin wicked witches on their heads; fairies fly across the room like dandelion seeds on the wind. Every glide is graceful and the movement and poise of the show's massive ensemble works with the emotional drama of the music to breathe new life into this story.
Although the technical aspects of the production are at times exquisite, it's hard to overlook how dated parts of the show looks. Some of Natella Abdulaeva and Svetlana Murzak's costuming could have been borrowed from the one of the Pavilion's pantomime's circa 1995. The drama of the storyline is not always delivered in the characterisation and, though I hate to seem like a bad fairy at a first birthday party, there are moments when the choreography seems a little repetitive and lacking narrative purpose.
Nonetheless, this is a pretty and at times exciting production which entices spontaneous ripples of applause and sharp intakes of breath from audience members. Though there are moments where the drama in the narrative is as tangible as an ice pole in a microwave, it remains a cool vision of the new and interesting possibilities of theatre.