Last night we encountered one of the most unique and inventive events we’ve had the pleasure of experiencing: Tony Law and Weirdos Comedy performing a musical comedy on ice in The Battle for Icetopia. Mog reports…
North London’s Alexandra Palace first opened as The People’s Palace in 1873, to provide the populace with “a place for recreation”. I doubt the Victorians would ever have seen this one coming! On an unseasonably mild autumn evening, Ally Pally’s enormous ice rink was home to a lovelorn polar bear, an angry cheese grater, Joseph Stalin (in red satin leggings), an officious fish, and a half-Trump, half-Phil Collins hybrid – with a drumming monkey growing out of his arm.
Tony Law presided over the madness as a skating superstar teenager, battling to overcome “the fear” with the help of his ex-maths teacher in the sky, to save Icetopia from the evil print barron, Stalin. It was a show that defied categorisation, and indeed definition – and for its originality and courage alone (in a world awash with MOR identikit entertainment), it deserves our appreciation and respect.
The Battle for Icetopia was like one of those shows you used to put on for your parents when it was too rainy to play outside. Rough around the edges and lacking a recognisable structure or clear point, yet jam-packed with passion, energy and charm (and homemade props) – and with enough funny moments and bonhomie to carry the action through the less successful parts.
There were moments of comedic brilliance: the cheese grater deciding whether various objects (including soya milk and Jazz FM) were “too smooth” and therefore in need of a good grating was a particular highlight: a joyful example of that hard-to-achieve sweet spot of the bastardised logic of surreal comedy. Unfortunately the echoey acoustics of the venue conspired against the appreciation of some of the finer details in the performance, which is a shame – I’m sure I missed other treasures in the first half, while I was busy trying to decipher what was being said.
Non-skating comedians wobbled precariously alongside impressively gliding pros, with Tony carving enthusiastically around everyone on the ice (who knew??) revealing a previously untapped skill as a physical performer. It might have been a show built on the single premise of Tony’s skating abilities, but the capacity audience of (mainly) Law diehards lapped it up, enthusiastically cheering, booing and hissing at the characters in full panto mode.
If Tony and team had the luxury a few more run throughs to finesse, edit, and sort out the sound, The Battle for Icetopia could be supremely brilliant – it certainly has the potential. As it was, it gave us a wonky, wonderful (if slightly indulgent) glimpse at what’s possible when ambition, imagination and ice-based talent get the opportunity to combine into something genuinely different.
Huge kudos to that cast in full: Matthew Highton, Marny Godden, Ali Brice, Elf Lyons, Eleanor Morton, Ben Target, Helen Duff, Kathryn Bond, Bob Slayer, Michael Brunscream, Matt Tedford, Joz Norris and Adam Lart.