ICE-COOL STARS GET SKATES ON TO GRACE CITY
When: Wednesday, October 31, to Saturday, November 3. Wednesday to Saturday, 7.30pm. Matinees Thursday and Saturday, 2.30pm
Where: Hull New Theatre, Kingston Square, Hull
Tickets: £12.50 to £23.50
To book: 01482 300300
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Origins: The first published version of Beauty And The Beast was in 1740, by the French writer Gabrielle- Suzanne Barbot de Villeneuve.
Adaptations: The fairytale has been regularly adapted for stage and screen. Well-known film productions include Disney's 1991 animation. Other versions include the 2011 film Beastly, which set the story in modern Manhattan.
With its cast of medal-winning skaters, Beauty And The Beast On Ice mixes athleticism and art, as Will Ramsey hears
T hey once skated for medals in the world's leading competitions.
But these days, the cast members of Beauty And The Beast On Ice are dealing with a different kind of pressure.
The show sees The Russian Ice Stars – a cast of international-standard skaters – staging the famed fairytale.
"It has the elements you would expect to see in top-class skating," said Colin Angus, the managing director of the show's producers, Wild Rose.
"Though instead of a long 'run-up', they have only a few feet from which to propel themselves into the jumps.
"They do doubles and triples – spins in mid-air – but it is so much harder to do these elements in a smaller space."
The touring production, which arrives at Hull New Theatre later this month, features a 20-strong cast, who have competed in national, European and world ice-skating competitions.
"Between them, they have won a lot of medals at the top level of their sport," said Colin.
"What we do through the Russian Ice Stars is turn them from sports people into performers in the theatrical sense – as the one thing they do not have is acting experience.
"It is about learning how to take on a character, to get the gestures and the facial expressions."
The cast are well-served there – the rehearsal director, Ludmila Butskova, was once a principal dancer with Moscow's famed Bolshoi Ballet.
With its mix of athletic prowess and theatrics – imagine a ballet on ice – Wild Rose has carved out a niche for itself during the past couple of decades. The company was formed in 1993, when Colin, then a theatre manager, and his partner decided to stage an ice-show as an addition to the annual pantomime.
Through their contacts, a company of Russian skaters was brought over to Britain for a production of Sleeping Beauty.
"It all worked so well, that we thought it was worth repeating," he said.
In the intervening years, the company has staged ice shows inspired by classic tales – including Peter Pan – and original concepts: Cirque De Glace – Evolution, told the story of the world from its creation to the present day.
Beauty And The Beast, which first toured in 2008, follows the traditional fairytale of Beauty, a young woman kept prisoner in a castle of a mysterious beast. After the Hull performance, the company will fly out to Sao Paulo, Brazil – one of the emerging markets for a company which now tours the world.
In the past year, Wild Rose has performed in Greece and Monte Carlo with the same technical challenges facing it at every venue.
At Hull New Theatre, as with other performance spaces, Wild Rose will create its own ice rink in a labour-intensive, 36-hour process.
The skating rink – "Imagine a giant baking tin," said Colin – is laid on the stage and filled with pipes connected to a refridgeration unit.
Chilled to -15C, water is sprayed on to the pipes throughout the night to create ice to a depth of 4in.
For the cast members, it is a chance to display their skills – and the competitive edge that has never quite left them.
"There is an element of competition," said Colin.
"They like to test themselves, and each other."