The big freeze ready for Peter Pan on Ice to skate into King’s Lynn
- Credit: Russian Ice Stars
It takes 15km of rubber piping, two chiller units and four tonnes of crushed ice to make the rink for Russian Ice Stars to stage J.M. Barrie's classic.
J.M. Barrie's classic tale of the boy who never grew up is staged by the world-renowned Russian Ice Stars thanks to four tonnes of ice and 18 hours to transform a King's Lynn Corn Exchange stage into an ice rink.
The production has all the elements of Barrie's famous fantasy adventure including Wendy, Michael and John visited in the nursery by Peter Pan, who teaches them to fly with the help of Tinker Bell, and takes them on a magical journey to Never Land.
Favourite characters, Tiger Lilly, Mr Smee and the vengeful Captain Hook, all feature. But while the story follows a traditional course, the staging does not.
At each venue the production company has 18 hours to transform a theatre stage into an ice rink.
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It takes two 45ft trucks, two industrial pools, 15km of rubber piping, two chiller units and tonnes of crushed ice to make the rink. A crew of 10 then work around the clock to get the venue ready for rehearsals at 4.30pm on opening night.
Julian Deplidge, creative director and producer of the show, which comes to King's Lynn this week for a seven performances over five days, said: 'We pioneered the concept of theatre on ice by producing full-length productions.
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'We build a full-size ice rink on theatre stages allowing audiences to see some jaw-dropping moves close-up; this is where it's different from the traditional view you get in an ice arena.'
A strict timetable needs to be followed in order that the ice rink is ready in time for rehearsal skating. The work starts the previous day at 9am when technicians arrive.
Eight venue technicians unload the set and costume truck, known as the dry truck, and start rigging lights, set and flying equipment. At 2pm, the wet truck containing the floor system and surround is unloaded and the task of building the ice rink begins.
Two 15mx15m industrial pool liners are laid on the stage and side supports from wood are built to create a large but shallow swimming pool. Inside the pool, 15km of a special flexible rubber pipe is laid and connected to a header system which is connected to two chiller units. The floor system is filled with anti-freeze and the pressure is checked. It resembles a giant radiator lying flat on the stage; it is in effect a simple flow and return pipe system. The anti-freeze is chilled to –15*C and circulated through the floor pipes. At this point the rubber pipes begin to frost over.
Four tons of crushed ice is then spread over the floor pipes, providing a head start in the freezing process. From this point, the rink is sprayed with water every 20-30 minutes until it reaches 7-8cm thick. This process takes approximately 14-18hrs before its ready for the skaters.
Theatre on Ice was born when producer Vee Deplidge, a Yorkshire car saleswoman and charity fundraiser turned theatrical promoter, created a company which toured the UK in 1993 to considerable acclaim, with a unique production of The Sleeping Beauty on Ice.
Using professional Russian ice skaters they have staged hugely acclaimed productions that have included The Phantom of the Opera on Ice followed by Carmen on Ice, Cinderella, Snow White and Cirque de Glace.
Many of their ice stars are former competitors at national, European, World and Olympic level and known collectively as the Russian Ice Stars, Vee and her son Julian have taken the company from strength to strength.
Theatre on Ice's international reputation means recruiting new skaters is an ongoing process even though the core of the company is made up of veterans of many of its shows.
'We have been touring for 24 years so we have a very good reputation worldwide for looking after our performers. Some of them have been with us for eight years, some 15 years and a girl who has been with us 20 years now,' Julian explains.
'That gives us the continuity. We rehearse two or three hours every day when we are on tour with a show. So they should be able to skate it with their eyes closed. We work with the best skaters in the business and I'm incredibly proud of what we've achieved with Peter Pan on Ice.'
• Peter Pan on Ice, King's Lynn Corn Exchange, March 15-16, 2.30pm and 7.30pm, £26.50 (£25.50 cons), 16.50 children/March 17, 7.30pm, March 18, 2.30pm and 7.30pm, March 19, 1pm and 4.30pm, £28 (£27 cons), £17.50 children, 01553 764864, www.kingslynncornexchange.co.uk