“Obsession” Hot Ice Show 2016 – 5 Stars *****

08 Jul 2016

Hot Ice celebrates 80 ice cool years


As Blackpool Pleasure Beach celebrates its 120th anniversary in 2016, another milestone is also being reached at the park this year. This is the 80th anniversary of the Hot Ice show!


Amanda Thompson, OBE, has pulled out all the stops with this show! Whether you want fast flashy skating, soft lyrical beauty, high tech lighting, flying effects, bubbles, cloths, feathers, sequins, pyrotechnics, you’ll find it all in this entertainment package that is second to none! There is nothing like Hot Ice anywhere in the World. The best skaters and creative vision can be found in the Ice Arena – designed by the famous architect Joseph Emberton as the World’s first purpose built ice theatre in 1936.


This is the show that has everything, including Internationally famous gymnast Alexei Kofanov with his much lauded Bath Tub performance and seen below in a new pole act for this season.


The experience starts as soon as you enter the Arena and head to your seats. The seating arrangement is a little confusing however the upside of this is that there are plenty of lovely staff on hand to welcome and assist you. The quality customer service is apparent wherever you go throughout the Pleasure Beach – helpful staff will look after you as you stagger from roller coaster to donut palace to roller coaster, so that when you eventually make it to the Arena after a fantastic day within the Pleasure Beach you’re warmly greeted and guided towards your seats.


You get the feeling at Blackpool Pleasure Beach that you’re welcome, that everything matters and that they all care and want to do the best they possibly can! Just taking a look at the ice quality – gotta be the best in the country. Makes for a smooth palette on which to paint the most dazzling array of lighting sequences you’ll find anywhere! Even the Olympia Ice Conditioning machine – lovingly sparkling and polished, you’ll see your reflection in the chromed wheel hubs, speaks volumes about the staffing at the Arena! And that’s before you add the incredible talent that’s in this show!


The show starts and within minutes you’re treated to girls in gorgeous costumes and boys popping Triple Jumps one after the other downstage centre. Foot sure, daring and perilously close to one another! They’re energetic and enthusiastic. With 29 International professional ice skaters power-stroking around the ice, you’ll feel the air movements this creates, it’s exciting and gripping!


The Ice Arena isn’t huge when compared to some of the World Arenas such as the O2, Toronto Sky Dome or New Orleans Super Dome, so you’re never far away from the skating action. Close enough to see the incredible height of the jumps, a close-up view of the daring lifts, and the skating skills of the Block formations. All executed with great speed and attack! You will marvel and be scared for them, although they all take this in their strides. You wonder at what it must be like to have a job that’s just a micro-second of a distraction away from disaster or a serious injury! Truly living life on a knife’s edge!


The throw jumps, lifts and appropriately named “death sprials” from David and Stacey King


With such strong International skaters the No Hold Block formations have to be seen to be believed! Their skill in unity, spacing, lines and footwork is sensational! Swing Rolls into Rockers perfectly executed! The triple Jumps coming from nowhere with little indication that they’re lining up to do so defies the difficulty of execution. Has to be seen to be believed.


You might wonder how skating can hold your attention for a 2 hour show. Well, in the case of Hot Ice, you’ll wonder where the time went and discover that Amanda Thompson’s solid direction and experience ensures this happens! All scene changes are smooth and covered by a distraction segway. Your focus will be “misdirected” elsewhere from the props and mechanics of how it all comes together so it’s magical! The performance journey is finely tuned. You’re taken through the fierce, the spectacular, the “wow”, and to the beautiful – you can relax and enjoy the emotional journey of this show. Amanda Thompson has it nailed! You know this is a show driven by passion and love of the art!


And that’s why the Opening Night’s show had a standing ovation! So well deserved!


But, if there’s one thing I’d like to change it would be the Sound Volume. There were times when it was too loud. Notably in Rhapsody. It probably depends on where you sit. But from where I sat it could definitely have been reduced as it bordered on the uncomfortable!


It’s unusual for any theatre show, and Hot Ice is certainly a theatrical experience, to Open and have a Press Night on the same opening performance – side-stepping Preview Performances when you can see the ebb and flow and gauge audience reactions and how it all works, or not. For such a large show it is a brave move to dispense with Previews. The only time this might have mattered in my opinion is for the Act 1 Finale. Possibly an over-picky comment that this cast of predominantly “free-style” skaters struggled to interpret the Waltz. Free skaters don’t necessarily have the skills to pull of an Ice Dance Corps number, and this was the one number that was not that “clean”. I’m sure this will be fixed.


With most UK theatre currently delivering “edgy” material that highlight social and community issues such as mental health, immigration, transgender and British politics it’s really nice to find this gem of a quality show. It does not attempt to educate you or make any bold statements. What you see are graceful beautiful girls and strong handsome boys, all good wholesome family values. An escape from the World. The costumes are not revealing,  boys only skate together in “no touch” shadow formation. I do wonder if a London theatre audience will travel to Blackpool for an ice show of traditional family values. I hope they do. I think they should. This is great value for money and real quality! Is the established Blackpool market ready for modern inclusive entertainment complete with modern ideologies? Should Blackpool remain a hidden gem that exclusively caters for their loyal patrons, or is it time to risk opening up to attract another market? With 80 years and counting under their belts, clearly they’re doing it right and I don’t see it changing soon. This Londoner will certainly make the trip again this season and would encourage all theatre-goers and skating lovers (which means everyone in the UK!!!!) to give yourselves a treat by going to see this wowzer amazing show!

Review by Richard Lambert from Theatre Reviews