(reviewed at the Theatre Royal, Norwich on 20 January)
Three words sum up Evolution – skill, ice and fire. This latest touring production from the Russian ice stars (these include performers from Estonia and Ukraine) is a far more coherent piece of work than its predecessor as it traces the progress of our universe from its beginnings in molten lava to the havoc which unfettered industrialisation generates.
Evolution‘s message therefore is an ecological one, albeit one presented with a degree of subtlety. The visual aspects – from the heaving black mass twisted into a cone central stage with which we begin, to the deforestation and relentless corporate grind as business-suited skaters rush endlessly to the dictates of their mobile phones – are excellent with costumes and settings (John Spence) complementing Chris Wilkey’s special effects.
There are a lot of these, many involving fire. Phil Water’s script keeps us in the picture as the 17 scenes succeed each other with Steve Millington and Stu Shaw’s score underlying (sometimes with a relentless brutality reminiscent of Le sacré du printemps) and action and accompanying the skaters and acrobats.
Julian Deplidge is the creative director (no choreographer as such is credited in the programme). Ekaterina Belokopytova is the principal acrobat, playing Gaia – earth mother and goddess – whose delicate balance on the globe is so threatened by man’s ruthlessness. If primates lumber amid nature’s richness, the delicate winged trio of insects which precedes their arrival offer an ethereal prologue.
The invention of the wheel, symbolised by Svetlana Golubeva, and the discovery of the many properties of fire, for both good and evil, are other moments to savour. The skaters perform with dash and style as well as skill, with some extremely good lifts displaying the performers’ perfect timing. Yes, it’s blatantly spectacular almost to a point where its message becomes submerged but it is good theatre which integrates acrobatics and skate dancing to fine effect.
Evolution (Cirque de Glace) plays at the Theatre Royal, Norwich until 23 January with matinée performances on 21 and 23 January.