Fire and Ice

We’re at yesterday afternoon’s first matinee…and last night’s second night, for a fine production in the flatlands

If you aren’t one of the 500 people who are booked to see Fire and Ice at the Nayland Village Hall, then you had better act quickly (see what I did there?). Just three performances remain of what is billed as a ‘frosty musical fantasy for all the family’. I had the privilege of watching most of yesterday’s matinee and evening performances (full disclosure: I was behind the bar) and enjoyed them thoroughly. The final performances are next weekend and tickets are selling briskly.

Fire and Ice isn’t billed as a panto, and nor should it be. It is within shouting distance of the genre; for example, there is a principal boy, a generous helping of familiar hits for the audience to clap along to, and a moment where sweets are thrown out to kids in the audience. Yet Christine Hawley and Mandy Cook have witten something far more subtle. There are plenty of jokes, but they are delivered at pace, and not milked to death (apart from one running gag which works well that way); there is little reliance on farce – and the small amounts of farce were clever, not clichéd; there were no ‘topical’ jokes. There’s no panto dame – though there is a moose who’s an agony aunt. There are times where the plot seems like a standard good vs. evil battle, but the denouement is rather more nuanced and interesting.

I’ve seen plenty of similar shows that have included children from nearby dance schools. They do their choreography and that’s that. This production trusts its young performers. The penguins and the ‘firecrackers’ (stormtroopers of the wicked-but-ambiguous fire queen) got some of the best moments and were given some of the best lines – perhaps a gamble but one that paid off. It was impossible not to be thoroughly charmed by their exuberance, confidence and sheer enjoyment of what they were doing. They were balanced by some fine performances from the many experienced actors among the large cast. A cracking set with some great effects, high quality props and a funky band completed the picture.

For an adult spectator, the two performances were very different to experience. The matinee was full of the penguins, villagers and firecrackers’ younger siblings, who were oblivious to the finer points of the performance (and indeed, to their siblings on stage). Even they were roused by the second half with its strong choreographed numbers. I felt rather more at home in the evening with an audience in long trousers and dresses; these adults clearly enjoyed the subtleties of the production. Though one young villain, thrilled that his performance in the matinee had attracted booing, may have been less pleased that his comeuppance in the evening was met with a murmur of, ‘Awww.’

Go see while you still can. But if you’re a grown up, go see in the evening.

Fire and Ice is performed by the Village Players at Nayland Village Hall. Friday 7 December: 7.30pm; Saturday 8 December at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets £6 (children £5) – 01206 262808

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