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Peter Pan on Ice

30th January 20

Laura Davidson

The Imperial Ice Stars are back at the Artscape with an entrancing fresh new show, Peter Pan on Ice, produced by world-renowned artistic director Tony Mercer.
Peter Pan on Ice It’s an extended version of a show originally created for Hyde Park Winter Wonderland in London 2018. Naturally, the production has a very British feel, the author of Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie) being quintessentially English. Indeed, Emma Clarke - whose plummy voice can be heard on the London Underground - narrates the story as Wendy.

Mercer experiments with a clever multi-layered stage-set, utilising an LED screen, 3-D modelling and superb video graphics for the first time. The cast spins and dances to an original musical score by Tim A. Duncan and Edward Barnwell, played by the Manchester Symphony Orchestra. Add to that effective lighting by designer Faheem Bardien with pyrotechnics used sparingly and to good effect, and the atmosphere is perfectly charged to draw the audience into a wonderful, whimsical fantasy world.

The touring group rehearsed for only six weeks to create this polished production – although admittedly they practised for up to eleven hours per day, six days a week. In fact, according to Mercer the cast have “suffered broken bones, stitches, muscle damage, ligament damage and dislocations” – all for our pleasure! When you see the unbelievable feats of fearless precision undertaken throughout the show, that’s perhaps unsurprising. Expect some astounding aerial gymnastics, including a couple of eye-wateringly terrifying head lifts.

The first scene hails the pirate ship, with Mikhail Kirsanov as the dastardly Captain Hook. He prods and harasses his pirate troop until the computer animation propels us to a terraced house in London, making me almost nostalgic for my former life there. George Darling (veteran ice-skater Volodymyr Khodakivskyy) greets his (real-life) wife, Capetonian Fiona Kirk, who plays Mary Darling. As always, Khodakivskyy manages to inject his trademark humour with the tiniest of gestures and the hint of a slice of a skate. He’s a master of aerial acts too, as we see later when he changes into pirate-mode.

With the children soon retiring to sleep, the stage transforms into a cosy bedroom scene. Charming Wendy and the audience watch naughty brothers Michael (a youthful Lev Sozoneneko) and bespectacled John (Vladyslav Lysoi) pillow-fighting. It’s from here on that the magic really happens, with the arrival of mischievous Tinkerbell (Olga Sharutenko - also the rehearsal director). Her truly mesmerising gossamer wings, made from twinkling LED lights, inject life into the fairy, instantly transporting us to childhood. The acrobatic flying sequences that are a feature of so many ballets and ice-dance productions were clearly made for both Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, both blessed with the gift of flight. The ever-youthful hero’s shadow meets the audience before his swooping arrival through the open window. A well-cast impish Bogdan Berezenko then whisks winsome Wendy (a charming Inna Horbachova) off into the clouds and over the streets of London with the help of some excellent computer graphics. We, too, are swept up into the skies as we fly towards magical Neverland.

The production is enhanced by the wonderful and creative flowing costumes of Veronika Pasternak, with the bulbous fat-suit of one pirate shipmate (whose exposed belly is abundantly apparent during some of the spins) a notable exception! The leads skate magnificently, commanding the stage with an array of technically difficult lifts, and frighteningly brave aerial gymnastic spins. The supporting cast is just as wonderful, including Captain Hook’s shipmates and darting Lost Boys, with the two smallest and lightest skaters frequently flung this way and that. Mermaids dipping in the lagoon are conjured up by ethereal, diaphanous fabrics combined with gorgeous computer graphics. Diana Sterliadkina as the beguiling Tiger Lily delights Peter Pan in the Indian Reservation, whipping Tinkerbell up into even more of a scolding, jealous fury.

Time, which means nothing to the ageless Peter Pan, eventually catches up with swaggering Captain Hook with the advent of his arch rival the Crocodile. Kirill Polnikov clearly revels in this role, his carefree saunter accompanied by a catchy tick-tock tune with self-memeing LED screen projections used to great humorous effect. Of course, the end is not really the end, as there’s an enthralling finalé piece. It’s so clear that the stars adore what they do; and so will you! I’ve always thought that Capetonian audiences are too ready to provide standing ovations, but this time I was the first to my feet. Without exception, the skaters were magnificent. It’s unsurprising, given their joint global pedigrees: all are Olympic, World, European and National Championship skaters, with over 250 competition medals between them. The skating is simply breath-taking, and a mastery of choreography from Mercer. The incredibly daring, spectacular leaps and rotations make ice-skating look simple, belying the excruciating endurance, athleticism and precision necessary to perfect them. The computer graphics are an innovative and captivating complement to the talented cast. All this comes together perfectly to provide a beautiful rendering of a favourite childhood tale. It’s a fun, whimsical, and utterly enchanting show that’s not to be missed.  

Show times:
16th Jan until Sunday 2nd Feb
Tuesday-Friday at 7:30pm
Saturdays 11am, 3pm and 7:30pm
Sundays 2pm and 5.30pm

Cost: R140 - R475 per person

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