The lights go up, and there is Rustie Lee dressed as a fairy – an 80s TV flashback vision in pantomime dame pink and black, like a winged lady liquorice allsort, waffling away while we try to make sense of how on earth this fits a classical production of The Russian Ice Stars‘ ‘Snow White On Ice’.
It doesn’t. It makes no sense at all. But as this is a fairytale, suspension of belief is a prerequisite. And suspension of all sorts takes place during this astonishing show combining elements of circus, comedy, and of course, skating while somehow maintaining a sense of grace and beauty worthy of the Royal Opera House.
The skating is world-class. Technically spot on, with emotion portrayed through immaculate physicality. There were a couple of scenes that left me with goosebumps, and the death scene had me on the verge or welling up – no mean feat when you’re jaded enough to have given up on Disney and see the whole thing as being about a Prince who is weird enough to kiss a dead chick.
But there’s weirder than that, as dear old Rustie shuffles on (ice, you see, slippery), forgetting her lines, guffawing away while poor old Snow White is lying pulse-less just a few feet behind her, with the children hanging on her every word and the adults in the audience falling about laughing.
It’s weird. There’s no getting round it. It shouldn’t work. But it does! It does! With magic and wonder and smoke and wicked magic mirrors and sparkle, it works like a magickal charm. From the Wicked Queen, whose cheekbones are as razor sharp as her boot blades, to sweet innocent Snow White, to the seven woodsmen (you can’t have six feet tall dwarves) and the comedy ducks (yes, really, ducks) every solo, ice dance coupling and ensemble dance is breathtaking. And did I mention the aerial acrobatics? It’s spectacular.
My four-year old asked me at the grand finale if Snow White was undead now. Not a chance. This is not a zombie performance in search of brains. It’s a life-affirming delight.