ICE SHOWS IN Johannesburg are strange phenomena. They come with promises of wow, and a sense of the amazingly exotic. And for the first few minutes after the curtain rises, you’re glowingly aware that the stage is all frozen over and every movement on it is conducted with performers on skates, and you’re consumed by this novelty. But then the “wow” shape of your mouth gradually widens into a yawn. Sadly, this is one of the things that happens in The Imperial Ice Stars’ rendition of Peter Pan on Ice, but it’s not all you can expect. There are some magnificent performances, a touch of fire and oft soaring dancers to keep you going.
The soporific effect of the show is not a reflection on the performers’ skill, which is considerable, but rather on the medium and its presentation. There is a moment with a narrator, which makes you feel you can relax into the work and not have to work too hard to understand what is going on, or draw from your own remembrance of the original story, but alas, it is just a moment, which, with massively imposing (and deadening) LED sets, is not followed through. What you get is an obscure but pretty rendition of the tale.
Similarly, there’s a bit of a casting issue. When you think of as iconic a character as the boy known as Peter Pan, you may think of a young sprite dressed from head to toe in green; a boy who can fly and who has vigilante energies that can save the unsaveable and see the baddies seen to. You may think of the pointy-eared character penned and brought to life by Walt Disney. Ultimately, however, what you may be thinking of is a character with the wide-awake and fierce spirit that you may have seen in Jaques de Silva’s interpretation of the Cat in the Cat and the Hat, or Roberto Pombo’s of Willie Wonka, in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Instead, you find an orderly, sedate and competent but generally serious Peter, performed by Bogdan Berezenko.
As with many iconic shows that feature a clear good versus evil dichotomy, it is often the baddies who get the best costumes, and armed with feisty rule-breaking characteristics are able to be more seductive and this is happens very explicitly here. The shenanigans of the pirate troupe are simply delightful. They make you sit up and take notice and make you want to replay certain sequences again and again. But it’s not only the baddies who shine. Rather, it is the ensemble energy, which flows into the story’s lost boys that is simply magical.
But further to all of this and casting aside the disturbingly plastic appearance of the upright crocodile, who feels more like a plastic Marvel hero than a dinkum croc, is the performance of the youngest Darling boy, Michael (Lev Sozonenko), who takes on complicated axels and arabesques, spins and twists, armed as he is with his teddy bear and dressed in his pajamas. He holds the simplicity of a boy swept into a magical scenario with the complexity of his skated steps with the kind of aplomb that makes you need to see the show, for that reason.
- Peter Pan on Ice is directed by Tony Mercer. Based on the original tale by JM Barrie, it features design by Tony Mercer (choreography), Veronika Pasternak (costumes), Faheem Bardien (lighting), Saul Cauldwell (projections), Nadine Minaar (set), Tim A Duncan and Edward Barnwell (composition). It is performed by Yulia Antipova, Laurie Ashworth, Bogdan Berezenko, Hayley Bowen, Emma Clarke, Tatiana Domracheva, Alexander Evmenov, Inna Horbachova, Volodymyr Khodakivskyy, Fiona Kirk, Mikhail Kirsanov, Leighanne Lamming, Andy Lee, Vladyslav Lysoi, Victor Michael, Valeriia Morozova, Olesya Ostashevskaya, Kirill Polnikov, Olga Sharutenko, Anastasia Shkolnikova, Elena Shurakova, Dmitri Sopot, Lev Sozonenko, Diana Sterliadkina, Adel Tankova, Nikita Tereshchenko, Karina Uraimova, Kirsten Wilson and Alexander Zverkovskiy at The Teatro, Montecasino theatre complex in Fourways, Johannesburg, until 11 January 2020.