The Russian Ice Stars have returned to Eastbourne with their touring production of the classic story of Peter Pan, the boy who never grew up.
The Congress Theatre’s proscenium stage is transformed into an ice rink and the company, most of whom have been skating since they learned to walk, and then gained success in individual championships and Olympic competitions for over 20 years, put on a show which is so breath-taking that the audience, bewitched by the sheer physicality, audacity and beauty of the skating, sometimes forgets to applaud!
Masterfully choreographed by Cavalieri Giuseppe Arena, and uplifted by Silvio Amato’s musical score (oh! for a live orchestra), this is an ice ballet which captures the timeless adventures of Wendy (Anastasiya Khlynina) and her two brothers who are taught to fly by magical Tinkerbell (Ekaterina Bokiy) and go with Peter Pan (Anton Smirnov) to join the Lost Boys in Never-Never land.
Valdis Mintals is both J M Barrie, writing his book in a corner of the stage, and Indian Chief dancing with Tiger Lily (Olga Balandina) on the faraway island.
Mintals is immense in both roles.
His spinning pirouettes while balancing his partner on one hand high above his head or scorching around the stage in a profusion of crunching ice and kaleidoscopic colour is mesmerising.
To which are added stunning circus acts on a trapeze of ropes which form the rigging of Captain Hook’s pirate ship.
Alexei Motorin is the evil hook-handed skipper and it is surprising his rapier-wielding skating in such a confined space does not cause serious injury, even to acrobatic Crocodile (Alexander Belokopytov).
One seriously jarring note is the appearance of BBC Sussex’s Danny Pike.
How Ice Stars’ management felt compelled to include “Buccaneer Bob for Jolly Roger Radio”, in a make-believe story which has enchanted for over a century, is incomprehensible.
Those responsible, and Pike, should be made to walk the plank.
See page 17 for a photo of the Russian Ice Stars practising at the Congress Theatre this week before taking to the stage.