Vanilla Ice Peter Pan

Live arts correspondent Bella Todd on the hottest happenings in the global cultural calendar this week, including Vanilla Ice’s pantomime debut.

The Main Event: Vanilla Ice in Peter Pan

If you’re a fan of either hip-hop or irony, there’s only one place for you to be this Christmas. And that’s wielding a glow-in-the-dark Santa hat and a giant foam hand at the Central Theatre in the English market town of Chatham, where Vanilla Ice is poised to appear in his very first panto.

Yes, the American rapper who topped the Billboard charts, created hip-pop, partially funded Death Row Records and, bless him, cooked MCs like a pound of bacon with his 1990 hit Ice Ice Baby, will this week play the first of 39 shows as Captain Hook in a new production of Peter Pan.

There were several enjoyable dimensions to the news of this unusual casting, not least the publicity video in which Ice attempts to sell the show with an impromptu rap: ‘Look out Peter Pan panto ’cos the Ice man is coming back to the UK/Believe it!/I can’t wait to achieve it…’

But more entertaining still is the confusion it’s caused stateside, where the term ‘pantomime’ is either unheard of (‘What the heck is this?’ Ice is himself reported to have asked when first approached to appear in one) or misunderstood.

Modern pantomime is, of course, the very British art of injecting fairytale plots with songs, slapstick, sexual innuendo and the phrase ‘It’s behind you!’ to create family-friendly festive musical comedy. In America, however, the ‘panto’ bit tends to get lost in translation, which has left numerous celebrity bloggers (Perez Hilton included) labouring under the impression that Ice will be conveying the character of the villainous one-handed pirate using only the silent medium of mime.

‘As a pantomime, Ice can only use his bodily and facial contortions and moves in order to act out the role,’ explains ‘In that respect, pantomiming is harder than method acting, but someone across the pond really believes Ice has the chops to pull it off. Hey, maybe they are onto something over in England!’

Meanwhile MTVClutch thinks this star casting is unfair on those ‘real mimes’ who ‘toil away in public parks and in front of museums pretending like they're trapped in boxes or climbing ropes, all in hopes of one day landing the role of Captain Hook in an all-pantomime version of Peter Pan…’

In reality, shoehorning celebrities into the cast list and onto the foreground of the publicity posters is par for the pantomime course these days, ‘celebrity’ meaning everyone from Pamela Anderson (who played the genie of the lamp in Aladdin in Wimbledon in 2009) to former Tory MP Ann Widdecombe (who opens in Dartford as Widdy in Waiting in Snow White on Friday).

And once you’ve guested as yourself in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze, hosted your own home makeover show, been skated off Dancing On Ice by children’s TV presenter Laura Hamilton and appeared on a Jedward single, you’ve already proved you (delete as appropriate) can/will do just about anything.

Personally, given that Ice’s 1989 debut album was called Hooked, we think this must have been fated in the stars, while those still debating whether to buy tickets will be interested know that Jedward have confirmed via Twitter that they are ‘most def coming’.

As Ice himself puts it with characteristic lack of much dependable meaning whatsoever, ‘Check out the Hook while my DJ revolves it!’

Best of the rest:

  • Hong Kong’s biggest music and arts festival, Clockenflap, takes place this weekend, with a few hip features such as the 10x3 metre graffiti wall (where festival goers can try their cans alongside street artists like HK duo Graphicairlines to liven up a decidedly late Noughties indie (Bombay Bicycle Club, The Cribs etc) line-up.
  • ‘Winter Festival’ can too often mean nothing more than drinking red wine with bits in and buying expensive things made of felt. But Enchanted Parks, which opens on Wednesday and is one of the highlights of the NewcastleGateshead Winter Festival, sounds just gorgeous. Here the winter wonderland is created using atmospheric installations and performances rather than commerce, and this year work has been commissioned from local artists on the theme of ‘surprise’. The magic will be created using everything from storytelling to smell, with plenty of curious sights to spot including dancing girls and gramaphones up in the trees.
  • His Othello was unexpectedly great. His Antipholus of Syracuse is even better. That’s the critical verdict coming in this week on comedian Lenny Henry’s second stab at Shakespeare, as he stars in a modern-urban production of The Comedy Of Errors at London’s National Theatre.

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