TamTam Books News

Monday, February 02, 2004:

If anybody has seen this production and wants to give it a review, contact me and I will put it on my TamTam Books News. But here is the review from today's Guardian Unlimited website: http://www.guardian.co.uk/arts/features/story/0,11710,1137207,00.html

Kitsch in sync

An ice extravaganza celebrates its sixtieth birthday with the best show ever. And it's got pink beetles with matching handbags

Kate Kellaway
Sunday February 1, 2004
The Observer

Holiday on Ice
Wembley Arena

I'm a Fool to Want You
Battersea Arts Centre, London SW11

Did Robin Cousins, producer of Holiday on Ice, arrange the weather last Wednesday night as a pre-show gimmick? Outside Wembley arena, the audience was on ice - only just upright, without skates. What a contrast to the performance within: I adored every vulgar, virtuoso minute of it. Is it theatre? Not quite - but it is the most sublimely kitsch show I have ever seen. These skaters have forgotten that they are human beings incapable of flight: they defy gravity and belief. They do mad things with their bodies - throwing each other around, carrying each other aloft, leaving the ground when opportunity allows. I am sure that they live on ice, they would not be safe on earth.They execute impossible spins, like liquid poured out too fast. Their movements are most beautiful when least complicated. Sometimes, weirdly, they skate in a way that reverts to non-skating, (running across ice on the tips of their skates) - for the sake, presumably, of choreographic variety.

Variety is the name of the game (and this is the sixtieth anniversary of Holiday on Ice). The costume designers have been working overtime to flamboyantly diverse effect: a plague of shocking pink beetles, with matching handbags; feathery carnival floats; an ice queen of exorbitant height (the living embodiment of a tall story); ballroom dancers; harle quins; men in gold tailcoats - half-insect, half butler. I liked the group that looked like RSC extras gone berserk, donning white skates and taking ensemble playing to slippery extremes. Oxana Anitchkina and Michael Tyllesen stood out as a romantic double act - twinned in dance; Igor Lioutikov was a Russian artful dodger of particular grace and mischief. And I loved Irina Nikolaeva, the skater who dances to 'It's My Party, and I'll Cry if I Want To' - and proves that skating at dizzying speed, wearing dainty yellow gloves is, any day of the week, preferable to crying at home.

If you did not know that Boris Vian existed (1920-1959) you'd not believe in him. The surreal theatre company Told by an Idiot have lighted on him with glee - recognising him as one of their own. Director Paul Hunter (who conceived the show) gets full mileage out of his subject. Vian was a French novelist who worshipped Duke Ellington and pretty girls ('everything else is ugly'). His life was fanciful (he wrote, among other things, about eels, toothpaste and American detectives), but it was nothing to the tragi-comedy of his death. He died watching a preview of the film version of his cult novel J'irai cracher sur vos tombes (I am going to spit on your graves). He did worse than spit on the film: he had a heart attack. Louis Malle commented: 'I've always thought that Boris died of shame from having seen what they'd done to his book. Like anything else, the cinema can kill.'

And the theatre can revive: Stephen Harper is a wonderful actor of elegance and wit. As Boris, he can make you laugh with no more than a twitch, a look or a blast on a toy trumpet. Hayley Carmichael is head-spinningly good as Ursula Gruber, the woman in Boris's life. Whenever she hears jazz, her body runs away with her. Jazz is always in charge. Everything else is up in the air - in every sense. Bentwood chairs are halfway up the wall, a pair of red shoes ditto. And glorious jazz musicians Zoe Rahman (piano) and Mark Crown (trumpet) ensure that Boris will do far more than turn in his grave.

Tosh // 10:29 PM

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