Robin Cousins visits Exeter to launch his new ICE show

Exeter welcomed Robin Cousins to Princesshay on Friday 13 September.  Launching ticket sales to his new show ICE, Robin met shoppers, ice show enthusiasts and business leaders, answering their questions on his new venture, an exciting new ice show touring the UK from January – March 2014.  The show comes to Westpoint, Exeter from Wednesday 19 February 2014 – Sunday 23 February 2014, which is perfecly timed for February half term, but you might want to get in there quick, as tickets are selling like hotcakes.

Members of the public were in for a rare treat too, when Robin answered their questions in Princesshay after being interviewed by Radio Exe breakfast presenter Ben Clark. Robin was asked about his new show as well as his role as the ITV chief Dancing on Ice judge and his career.

Exeter’s leading tourism and business figures also took the opportunity to meet Robin, who told them of his strong connection with Westpoint both in terms of Holiday on Ice but also the fact that he performed, with Holiday on Ice, one of his last professional appearances as an ice skater. Robin also reminisced the first time Holiday on Ice appeared at WestPoint, when he had to walk past fields of cows and sheep across the pallets of wood in an overcoat to get to the ice. Robin said "I am pleased to say it is not the same now, and I am very excited to bring an ice show in a brand new medium to Westpoint. 

"It has been 30 years since Ice Majesty was at the Bristol Hippodrome, the first ice show that I produced, and so I am hoping to use my last 30 years of experience of ice shows and my love of theatre to bring ice skating to a whole new generation of people."

He continued "I actually met with ICE's producer Jamie Wilson about a completely different project, and Jamie somehow managed to wrangle it around to the fact that he, at the age of about two, had seen Electric Ice in London and said I've always wanted to do an ice show, which has led to us now working together on ICE. I have to say that Exeter was not initially on the list of venues to feature ICE, and I had to convince Jamie that it could work in Exeter and Brighton, both venues close to my heart, but as soon as he walked into Westpoint and the Brighton Centre he said 'Oh, so now I get it'. And so we are both very excited about this venture."

Robin then wowed his guests by presenting his Olympic Gold Medal, which he won at Lake Placid in 1980, and a pair of his ice skates, which were both reverentially passed around the table. It is certainly humbling to be in the presence of such a legend of the ice skating world, but one who clearly retains every ounce of the passion that drove him to achieving Olympic excellence and has continued to enthrall audiences both on stage and on our television screens. 

Robin said: "I spent years performing in arenas, not connecting with the front row let alone the back row. And so, even though some theatres may seem huge to some, you can get such a connection with the audience. I just love that immediacy to the audience.

"I always say that I like to give my audience exactly the show they want, just not how they were expecting it. So three names for you... Elton John, Lady Gaga and Lloyd Webber (not Julian Lloyd Webber or Andrew but their father William Lloyd Webber - beautiful, romantic compositions for chamber music). And Lady Gaga - not the rip-roaring, meat-wearing funky pop star, but the pianist, composer, singer - I have one of my favourite songs in ICE that she performed with Elton John in a Christmas Special completely stripped away. I've also had Elton John's Tonight in my head choreographically for 14 or 15 years. I have never had anywhere to do it before but now I can do it in this show in its entirity."

Olympic champion and head judge on ITV’s Dancing on Ice, Robin Cousins has hand-picked the greatest ice skaters from around the globe to bring his incredible new production to life.

Dynamic and atmospheric Robin Cousins’ ICE will draw you into its unique world, where world class skaters glide, soar, flip and fly in a truly theatrical setting. ICE features a powerful soundtrack of original music and reworked modern classics designed to delight and enthrall.

Robin Cousins’ ICE redefines ice skating for a new generation with a spectacular show the like of which UK theatres have not seen in 30 years.

Robin told The Exeter Daily, "Audiences feel they know what they are getting, either through the Holiday on Ice shows or my past performances. And we know the audiences. The bottom line is that people want value for money, and that is exactly what we are delivering with ICE. This is a family show and that means family tickets. People want to feel like they are getting their money's worth."

When asked how ICE differs to Holiday on Ice Robin said "In ICE we have a cast of 14 versus a cast of many, including an ensemble and dancers that will back everything up. In ICE the 14 dancers are everything and who are doing it all. They have a lot of experience behind them, they know each other and they won't be frightened to say 'could we do this, or could I do that instead?' I love to collaborate. I want the dancers to do their version of what I have choreographed.

"The most important thing for me is that if you are stripping away the smoke and mirrors, it's an ice show... it's the skates and the skating and the bodies of the skaters."

So is ICE for the skating purist? "Not really, it is for anybody who loves movement. Anything that I create has to work for the purist but it also has to work for the person who has come off the street never having watched an ice show before. Or who has only ever seen Dancing on Ice and thinks that is what skating is about. As wonderful as Dancing on Ice has been, that is not figure skating. What Jayne and Chris do, that's figure skating but most of the teams, no."

Naturally, shows such as ICE are bound to excite audiences into wanting to try it for themselves. However, as Robin told The Exeter Daily, that opportunity is sadly lacking these days due to financial restraints. "Even the towns and cities that have ice rinks, they generally have to share the facilities with other sporting disciplines and so do not provide a consistant place for hopefuls to practice.

"Of course it would be wonderful to have an ice rink locally, but until there is sufficient demand and financial backing I think that is unlikely. However, it is one sport that you could do 365 days of the year. In Coventry they have a great arena with thousands of seats, but in order to make it pay it has to share the space with tennis, so where do the skaters go? It has to be economically sound and serve the entire community. It would be great, so I would say never say never."

Robin is clearly a very passionate about skating so who inspired him to get into skating in the first place? "Gene Kelly! I adored Gene Kelly when I was younger. Dancing with Cyd Charisse was one thing, but then I saw him in a roller-skating scene in one film where he tap dances on roller skates and it was exquisite. I remember loving to watch the MGM movies on a Sunday afternoon."

So how does this transfer to wanting to skate? Robin says: "My father was a footballer and my brothers played football and cricket and my Mother was trying to find a way to tell my Father that I wanted to dance. Now my Dad was an apprentice at Millwall Football Club, which was the first to get a ballet dancer in to help them stretch and stop them getting injured. And so I started dancing.

"First I saw an ice show on stage at the Hippodrome in Bristol, then when we went on holiday to Bournemouth I saw what I thought was a poster to an MGM musical and I zoomed in and onto the ice. Apparently the fella said 'Where does your son skate?' and she told him that he's never been on the ice. Then when I turned six I asked for skating lessons and used to get the number 42 bus there before and after school. I started competing at the age of nine. Then I won my first championships at the age of 12. The year I turned 15 I started competing internationally."

So, could anyone learn to skate "Yes of course they can, but you need passion to be the person that catches the audiences eye. Do they have to be the best skater or dancer? No, but they have to have something special about them that makes people want to watch. I was told I was too tall to skate, but I was determined and had the passion to succeed, and that's what I like to look for in all my dancers."

ICE is produced by Jamie Wilson Productions, a theatre production company based in London, whose purpose is to produce a diverse range of theatre and live entertainment in the UK and overseas. Prior to being an independent producer, Jamie worked for Mark Goucher. In 2008 he won the prestigious Stage One New Producers Bursary Award and was mentored by Paul Elliott.

Past productions include: Rolf Harris Live! (London, Nottingham and Manchester 2011 – 2012, The Royal Festival Hall, 2013), Santa Claus and the Christmas Adventure (Ambassadors Theatre, West End, 2011), Andrew Lloyd Webber's Tell Me on a Sunday (Northampton Royal and UK Tour, 2010-2011), When Harry Met Sally (UK Tour, 2010), Dance Attack (Secombe Theatre, Sutton, 2005) and The Wiz (Thorndike, Leatherhead, 2004).

Jamie told The Exeter Daily, "Tickets have been on sale for just two weeks, but the sales so far have been extraordinary. We can't wait for next February to bring ICE to the Exeter audiences."

James Sharp, chairman of the Exeter and Heart of Devon Hotels and Restaurants Association, said “we are really looking forward to Robin’s show at Westpoint.  The show is a fantastic attraction for groups and families travelling to the area and will provide a welcome boost to sales during the winter season.”

Tickets for Robin Cousins’ ICE are now on sale, but are selling fast, with prices starting at £22.50 for adults / £12 for children. The show will be at Westpoint, Exeter from Wednesday 19 February 2014 – Sunday 23 February 2014, with ten performances over the five days. Be quick, as you don't want to miss out on the opportunity to be amazed by the dazzling ICE, where world class skaters glide, soar, flip and fly in a truly theatrical setting. ICE features a powerful soundtrack of original music and reworked modern classics designed to delight and enthrall.

Call the box office on 08444 99 99 55 for more details and to buy tickets.

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