Wednesday, 16 December 2015
Bewitchment on Black Ice @ The Landor Theatre
You'd think that ice skating and musicals should be reserved for the likes of Disney On Ice rather than a small pub theatre in Clapham. And you'd be right.
Hang on - ice skating in a pub theatre? This isn't actual ice though, it's synthetic black flooring that's as slippy as the wet stuff. It is literal witchcraft. Sitting in a small room, sipping on mulled wine and watching actors skate across a seemingly innocuous floor is as strange as it is remarkable. There's some impressive work here, in particular from Tara Smart and Chantelle A'Court, but as a whole the "rink" is too small for anything too thrilling, proving that this show is just too ambitious. And no, nobody fell over.
Ultimately the skating is just a gimmick that interferes with the show itself, a show in which a voiceover narrates the action whilst the performers waft along gracefully enough. If the characters are mute, though, the sound at least needs to be of a high quality. Instead, it's poorly edited with crackling joins, erratic volume levels and laughably cartoonish voice work that doesn't always suit the characters we see. That's when we even see their faces, when too often they're bewitched by their own footwork.
The poster may hint at magical Gothicism, but in fact the show is thoroughly modern madness with a preoccupation for recreating YouTube videos - specifically the comedy work of Todrick Hall. It is utterly jarring, makes little sense in the context of the story and only heightens the gimmicky feel of the production. Modern musical choices like "Sexy Cinderella", "Fancy", "Crazy In Love" and "Uptown Funk" are further examples of antithetical decision making in this fairytale world, whilst the limited set and questionable effects lend it all a budget feel that only emphasises how expensive the skating flooring probably was.
Except the cast do speak! Some of them at least. The dialogue, though, is cringeworthy (a repeated reference of one character to chocolate fondue is especially awkward), the acting wooden and the singing shakier than the skating. As for the plot, it's a nonsensical mash-up of fairytales that makes little sense beyond serving each musical set-piece.
And yet, weirdly, there's a sense of chaotic charm to it all. This is a show that doesn't take itself too seriously, comprising a decent cast wrangling with shoddy material - not to mention their daring to perform it all on (black) ice. And one moment of singing and dancing to Beyoncé is genuinely moving, evidence of what the show could have been. Settle in and this is an entertaining, if not bewitching, little romp of high camp. "This isn't a pantomime", claims one character. Well not quite, but it sure is a farce.
Watch: Bewitchment on Black Ice runs at the Landor Theatre until 9th January.
N.B This review is of a preview performance.