Robin Cousins' ICE
Festival Theatre, Edinburgh
How hot can an ice show get? Hot'n'smoking enough to set the fire alarms off on opening night at the Festival Theatre. The real culprit was probably the whoosh of fireworks at the end of Act One, but there's enough sizzle in the skating to keep audiences clapping enthusiastically, especially when the performers defy the limitations of the on-stage rink to throw in a jump or whisk through a blur of fast spins.
And there are some surprises. One is when Michael Solonoski turns vocalist, singing More Than Words and making the choreography - with its interplay between changing partners - more than just clever moves. Even more of a surprise is when Kate Endriulaitis takes off from the ice in a hoop, mixing aerial skills with skating finesse - touching down into a glide, before rising again to continue her sequences of graceful acrobatics.
The main aim of this show, choreographed and directed by Robin Cousins, is not to reduce ice skating to a series of point-scoring moves. That's for competitions, like the recent Winter Olympics at Sochi, where Cousins was the broadcast voice telling us when a lift was too high or held too long. No such constraints in ICE where (as the helpful programme notes reveal), banned Detroiters and Bounce Spins - both involving challenging holds, lifts and fast action - are highlights. But perhaps the art that Cousins cherishes is most evident during the ensemble dance routines to jazzy rhythms and swingtime grooves, where nifty footwork would persuade you there's no ice under foot, until the performers suddenly skate into new formations and the lights glint on swift, swishing blades.
Never Try This At Home
Now the 1970s have been tarnished forever by the behaviour, alleged or otherwise, of some of the era's biggest show-business stars, it's as hard to satirise its excesses as it is to know how to replace all the endless retro Bank Holiday telly shows it spawned. Yet that's exactly what the Told By An Idiot company attempts to do in a show that reimagines the custard pie throwing anarchy of Saturday morning children's TV as the accident-waiting-to-happen it probably was.
It starts with our host Niall Ashdown setting up a student union vibe with the framing device of gathering the surviving presenters of a Tiswas-like show called Shushi, which came to an abrupt end in 1979 when its sole female presenter attempted suicide live on air. As a series of live rewinds reveal a culture of casual misogyny, cultural stereotyping and egomania, Ashdown interviews each of Shushi's alumni in turn, including its female survivor.
As a comment on the unseen indulgences of a seemingly untouchable mass media, there are some deliberately discomforting moments in Paul Hunter's production of Carl Grose's script, devised in part with the company. The trouble is, for all the kitsch recreations on show, there are too many mixed messages being sent out. Any serious points being made are undermined by the fun the cast of six are so clearly having. It's a tricky balancing act, but if Told By An Idiot's observations are to matter as much as The Day Today, Alan Partridge and new BBC-based mock documentary sit-com W1A, they need to go deeper and get much, much messier.
Tom: A Story Of Tom Jones
Gardyne Theatre, Dundee
On the day it was announced that 73-year-old Tom Jones would headline this year's Tartan Heart festival at Belladrum, Theatr na nÓg was preparing to tell his story.
Far from being a jukebox musical, however, this is the tale of Tommy Woodward, the teenage husband and father who works in a factory, but also sings in the pubs and clubs of Pontypridd. He drinks, fights, and womanises in them too.
There is music of course, largely the songs that he would have been singing in those early years, with his band The Senators playing live on stage. They are also important characters, however, and their collective fate will resonate with musicians who headed to London in search of stardom only to be eaten up and spat out by ruthless management.
Obviously a production that profiles such a distinctive character will stand or fall on the actor playing the part, and in this case one that can emulate that voice. In Kit Orton, the company has a Tom that allows the show to fly. The acting is solid and the movements eye-wateringly cheesy (as they should be), but the voice is note perfect, with all the power, guts, and warmth of Jones himself.
This is also an insight into his wife Linda, who over their 55-year marriage has shunned publicity. Elin Phllips is impressive as the lovestruck teenager, and like the uniformly excellent cast manages to make some clunky dialogue seem natural.
It's a shame that the comedy is so broad at times and that it was felt necessary to add a medley of hits at the end, diminishing the dramatic impact of what had gone before, but audiences may have gone home a tad disappointed without a sway to Delilah.