Theatre review: Frozen at the Park Theatre

Mark Rose (Ralph) and Sally Grey (Nancy) in Frozen. Picture: Gareth McLeod

Mark Rose (Ralph) and Sally Grey (Nancy) in Frozen. Picture: Gareth McLeod - Credit: Archant

Jill Truman finds Bryony Lavery’s play a moving depiction of a mother’s pain.

Bryony Lavery’s disturbing play about the widespread consequences of the abduction, sexual abuse and murder of a 10-year-old girl is not easy to watch, so closely involved are the audience confined within the small space of Park 90. The experiences of the four consummate actors are distressing and sometimes terrifying .

Central to the action is the long and agonising journey over 20 years of Nancy, the child’s mother, movingly and powerfully portrayed by Sally Grey. She travels from hope to despair, through hatred and desire for revenge, to a slow, if partial, acceptance. That she survives is almost a miracle, but “nothing is unbearable” as she says at the close of the play. It is clear, however, that the lives of all four characters, as well as of innumerable people more remotely concerned with, or even completely unaware of, these terrible events, are changed forever.

The acting throughout is strong and sure. Even the silent guard, played by Liam Tims, is perfect in the timing of his moves, body language and facial expressions. Mark Rose gives a powerful and frightening performance in the near-impossible part of Ralph, the perpetrator of the crime. His authenticity is astonishing. Helen Schlesinger deals excellently with the complex part of Agnetha, the psychiatrist. A successful career woman, efficient, worldly-wise, experienced, intelligent and apparently in control of the situation, she is also deeply affected by her connection with the crime.

The apparently disconnected stream-of-consciousness monologues at the beginning of the play gradually come together and the theme is established and developed. It is a story with which, through the media, we are all familiar. Now it is happening to us. We are introduced to innumerable relevant emotions and ideas, including remorse, guilt, revenge and the viability of restorative justice, before coming to a dramatic, partially satisfactory, ending.

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As befits a plot where the development takes place inside the minds of the characters, the set (Jason Southgate) is virtually non-existent and the lighting and sound (Charlie Lucas and Gareth Mcleod) are also minimal. The action takes place off-stage, with results as powerful as in any Greek drama. The emotions – both of actors and audience – are mercilessly explored. And the repercussions will continue.

Apart from one joke at the end of this traumatic production, directed by Ian Brown, this is not a fun evening. But it is fascinating and insightful. More a drama-doc than a play, it provides plenty of material for thinking and talking about afterwards.

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Rating: 3/5 stars

Until April 11

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