Please do bring ear defenders to Bewitchment on Black Ice. The voiceovers and recorded music are more often than not so loud it is sometimes difficult to decipher what is being said, and with the cast not using microphones, their otherwise more than adequate voices are largely drowned out by the music. The music itself is played through what sounds like a public address system at a railway station – which is, as I say, too loud for comfort. The narrative is straightforward enough to follow anyway, but this is rather beside the point.
The limitations of the venue become apparent soon enough, when, with ‘synthetic ice’ in use covering almost all the stage space, the lack of manoeuvrable space does not allow for the full range of ice skating possibilities to be realised in the ensemble pieces. The characters come across as though they are in a crowded shopping precinct in the January sales, carefully avoiding barging into another and more or less succeeding. Only in solo or duo parts is the choreography allowed to flourish.
The show is disjointed. On several occasions I found myself wondering what and where exactly a particular scene is supposed to fit into the wider narrative. I was, perhaps, reading too much into this, and maybe it’s one of those productions that is best enjoyed by not being very analytical at all and just going with the flow.
Lines that were intended to be humorous were so dire that most of the audience decided to remain stony-faced: these lines were not even worth groaning at. (Did they really expect to slag off Clapham, in a theatre in Clapham, and expect it to go down well with the locals?) Further, there is excessive use of chart music – with no acknowledgement in the programme, as far as I can tell, of other artists’ compositions used in this production.
For sure, the audience knows and recognises tunes from elsewhere that have been adapted – I enjoyed a reworking of Stephen Sondheim’s ‘Agony’ from Into The Woods – but a show can’t be that inventive when my most enjoyable bits were listening to recordings of ‘Merry Christmas Everyone’ by Shakin’ Stevens and ‘Thriller’ by Michael Jackson. Used as often and as formulaically as it is here, borrowing tunes and lyrics from elsewhere only demonstrates a lack of originality and creativity.
This is not to say there are no redeeming features. A solo given by Prince Alluring (Chris Cauduro), and a later one by Rumpelstiltskin (Jeff Raggett) show clearly that there’s nothing quite like a live rendering, as opposed to a recorded one, and it left me wondering why all the songs included weren’t vocalised live – it’s what audiences tend to expect from theatre, and rightly so. There are some good lighting effects creating atmosphere and setting, but it’s the ‘black ice’ where investment and effort has clearly been centred.
The storyline plays second fiddle to very many excuses for a song and dance, until eventually the show seems as though it has given up trying to unfold a plot altogether, and unleashes song after song of popular tunes. That isn’t so much a theatrical production as a compilation CD. Bewitchment on Black Ice succeeds, at least, in being “an ice skating show!”, with the vast majority of the cast proving to be highly competent skaters.
Review by Chris Omaweng
BEWITCHMENT ON BLACK ICE
Once upon a time, in a land far, far away, there lived an extremely powerful woman…
Surrounded by wealth and very little else, she soon began to spiral into madness. Absolute control became her only desire – all shall love her and despair. With a black heart and ice cold compassion she dominated the Kingdom, imposing her every desire across the land.
She eventually procured all the magic in the land and become both omnipotent and unquestionably formidable. Her rage turned the snow as black as her soul – spiting those who would find joy in it. Now, every Christmas, the black ice serves as a reminder to all of the Enchantress’ absolute power…
Enter Rumplestiltskin (and a few enthusiastic but hopeless Princes and Princesses) to save the day, remind Malevolent of the goodness within her, and restore Enchanted to its former glory! Plenty of panto puns, even more costume changes, and all of it on ice skates!
Full cast as follows: Cast: Paulette Smart, Jeff Raggett, Ryan Forde Iosco, Chris Cauduro, Nik Chiappetta, Tara Smart, Chantelle A’Court and Ruth Petersen.
Creatives: Devised & Choreographed by Nicky Scott, Directed by Robert McWhir, Musical Supervision by Inga Davis-Rutter, Script by Tom Whalley, Designed by Richard Lambert and Max Spielbichler
70 Landor Rd, SW9 9PH
10 DECEMBER 2015 – 9 JANUARY 2016 Matinées – 3pm Evening – 7/7:30pm Late Shows – 8/9pm
Running time 1hr 45min (including interval tbc)