Will you be joining Cinderella at the ice ball in Ipswich this Christmas?
Just in case you were in any doubt; performing on a small, ice-covered theatre stage is as difficult as it looks, confirms Valdis Mintals. Entertainments writer WAYNE SAVAGE tackles the slippery subject of skating so close to the audience and how you can make your own ice rink.
Sat so close to the action you can almost feel the ice on your face, ex-competitive skater Valdis must feel as nervous as the first few rows when it comes to performing on such small stages?
“The first performance we were skating quite close [to each other and the audience] on small theatre stages; it’s not a usual ice rink so at the beginning it’s unusual for us. After years of practice we now feel really comfortable on that stage,” he assures me.
Having played JM Barrie in Wild Rose’s production of Peter Pan last year, he’s back with internationally-acclaimed Russian Ice Stars playing the Prince in Cinderella on Ice at the Ipswich Regent from December 27-31.
Producer Vee Deplidge pioneered the concept of theatre on ice, creating full-length productions designed to give audiences an excellent view of the performers’ moves; a very different experience to arena shows.
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Valdis, born in Tallinn in 1979, has been skating since he was four. A hugely successful competitive skater, he won national and world championships before retiring and joined the company in 2002.
Adapting from performing on the world stage to theatre stages wasn’t easy, for anyone.
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“What our company can be proud of is on this small stage we can show absolutely all the skating elements including difficult jumps, triple lifts, everything else you will see at the world championships and Olympic Games.”
Actual skating aside, he does get nervous about his performance.
“When it’s the Olympic Games or World Championships it’s a very important result. In theatres you have to do not only these elements, you need to show your character.
“People need to believe you when they’re watching that you’re Cinderella or the Prince. You need to show another side, not just the skating elements but your soul,” says the 32-year-old.
If you think his new job’s easier, think again.
“It’s definitely different. You have competitions maybe ten times a year. When we travel around the world our usual week is seven shows, seven times you need to do your best.
“In competitions you need to do your best like I said maybe ten times a year. Of course they’re difficult because it’s a very important result and you don’t have any chance for mistakes, but it’s just the ten times. Here it’s all the time.”
The cast are just as likely to injure themselves on stage as they are competing, too. A few years back, Valdis laughs, he cut his leg open on his own skate and had to go to hospital straight after the performance.
“Every show we need to show our best and everybody in our company was in the past a sportsman and they are respected. They like every show to be better and better; they don’t want to fall down from the jumps or do some other mistakes. You need to concentrate all the time.”
Delivering a dazzling take on the popular fairytale, the mix of high-speed skating and jaw-dropping aerial feats will take your breath away.
Throw in superb sets and colourful costumes and you get a two-hour spectacle fit for lovers of magical music, ice dance, ballet and amazing acrobatics that will leave all ages spellbound.
Valdis can’t wait for the two-hour spectacle, complete with narration, to hit the Regent stage.
“Our show is for all ages and has a lot of elements, emotion, acrobats, flying people. It’s an absolutely unusual vision because we have different level of skaters, dancers, acrobats flying and this mixed with figure skating is very interesting.”
If you went last year and wondered how they make the rink then wonder no more.
They start with a clear/empty stage then lay down two pool liners which are used to make a baking tray style shape to make sure the ice rink is sealed. Wood is used to create a solid frame around the rink.
Next is the floor system. This consists of seven, two-metre metal frame sections which each holds 16 rubber pipes. When unrolled to their maximum, each can be 16 metres long. So, for one two metre section there is 256m of rubber pipe to unroll - the equivalent of two-and-a-half standard football pitch lengths. If you make an ice rink at 14m wide and 16m depth it means you have rolled 1,792m of pipe - the same as the length of 17 football pitches.
While these pipes are being unrolled, you have to connect the two inch pipes from the chiller machines to the two metre rubber pipe sections. This allows the glycol (antifreeze) to be pumped from the machines to the two metre rubber pipe sections being unrolled up and down the stage.
To freeze the rink they use two huge chiller machines. Each one weighs around two tonnes. These chillers sit on a truck permanently when the company is at the theatre.
Once all the pipes are unrolled and the system filled with the glycol, you have to wait for the machines to get to the correct temperature, around 17 degrees.
Gone are the 14 tonnes of crushed ice laid down before. Time to begin spraying the rink with water. To get the correct thickness of ice, ice engineer Misha Halmiz must stay overnight and spray it every 15-20 minutes. Don’t feel too bad for him, he gets the next day off.
He slowly lets a layer of water freeze one at a time. If he just filled the rink completely full of water it would take days to freeze. This is the same if you put a two litre bottle of water in your home freezer and expected it to freeze straight away. You must put a small amount of water in the bottle first, let it freeze for 15-20 minutes then add a little more water and let that freeze and so on.
This is why Wild Rose do the same for its ice rink, because it needs to freeze the rink overnight in about 12-14 hours to be ready to continue building the show the next day and ready for the opening night.