Breaking the Ice

Review by Flossie Waite
A Unicorn/ Filskit theatre company production
Unicorn Theatre
2nd September – 4th October 
For ages 2-5

The hysteria over a picture of a weasel riding a woodpecker earlier this year served as a timely reminder of just how much we all love an unusual animal friendship. Sadly, the image actually captured a vicious attack gone awry, rather than the friendly offer of a free ride… But Breaking the Ice is based on a far happier cross-species courtship: the true story of a husky (Victoria Dyson) and polar bear (Sarah Shephard) striking up an acquaintance.

This latest production uses Filskit Theatre’s winning formula – wordless action that utilises projection, shadow work and movement. A huge white glacier-shape in the middle of the stage floor is revealed to be a seemingly responsive digital projection – paw prints follow the husky’s feet, the ground cracks under the thump of a polar bear’s paw. Whilst ambitious, the show harnesses technology to create something that still feels intimate and understated. The audience is just as awed by the shadow puppetry glimpsed through the explorer’s (Katy Costigan) tent before the show begins; there is a reverential hush as the explorer carefully pulls on her warm jacket and big snow boots during the opening moments.

The show isn’t afraid to take its time: when Dyson bounds onto the stage as the husky, she spends a good while energetically introducing herself to the front few rows, and we are allowed a long look at the two animals gleefully playing together. What separates the new BFFs? Breaking ice – a huge crack renders it into two islands, quickly drifting apart. If there is an environmental message to be had here, it is at the audience’s discretion – whilst the sun appears to cause the fissure (“it’s too hot!” pronounced a boy in the row ahead), it doesn’t last long, with the ice re-forming over night, enabling the companions to quickly continue their fun.

Whilst this is a slightly confusing conclusion to the tale, it is quickly made up for. Rather than a Stay and Play session after, the show blends into play time, as husky and polar bear ears are divvied out and the audience are invited onto the stage. It’s not until everyone’s had a chance to test out their own ice breaking skills and fall asleep under the Northern Lights that Breaking the Ice ends.

Breaking the Ice will also be visiting the egg, Bath (23rd – 25th Oct), Salisbury Playhouse (24th Nov – 5th Dec), and Z arts, Manchester (18th – 19th Dec).
Image by Ludovic des Cognets.

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