Frozen

Bryony Lavery

The Blueprint Theatre Company

Park Theatre

From 18 March 2015 to 11 April 2015

Review by Alecia Marshall

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A distorted triumvirate of murderer, mother and psychiatrist, Bryony Lavery’s award-winning Frozen is nothing if not a challenge.

A play of both sensitivity and violence, melodic lyricism and startling realism, Islington based Blueprint Theatre Company tackles Lavery’s tour-de-force within the intimate confines of Park’s ninety-seat studio.

It is a play to approach with caution. A paedophile murders a child. The child’s mother wrestles with revenge and forgiveness. A fractured criminal psychiatrist attempts to comprehend the incomprehensible.

The audience becomes the fourth player, faced with a fictional proposition that vibrates long after Lavery’s closing lines: "Serial Killing: A Forgivable Act?"

It is a vital work that remains pertinent seventeen years after its conception—but relevance is not enough to sustain such a play. Frozen sits upon a tightrope, and it requires a sophisticated balancing act to see it through to its conclusion.

The set is simplistic and supple: a darkened doorway, a bench, some chairs. There is, of course, enough to behold within the language.

Lavery’s central metaphor—the cruel paralysis of the Artic cold, the ‘frozen sea of the criminal mind’—is successfully echoed in Ian Brown’s considered staging. The characters are isolated within their monologues, often simultaneously occupying the stage but always solitary—frozen within their respective space.

Mark Rose is arresting as the psychotic Ralph, his performance simmering with desire, hatred and finally, remorse. From the meticulous folding of his clothes to the unstoppable filth that spills from his mouth, Rose depicts a man who craves control but cannot grasp it, his fingers slippery with the demons of his childhood.

Sally Grey is aptly unassuming as the murdered child’s mother, Nancy. There is the halting sense of a woman thrust onto the stage, forced into a grotesque spotlight of police enquiry and support group sermons.

And yet as she moves towards forgiveness there is little change. Grey’s performance remains static, measured—the painful trajectories of her early monologues refusing to surface during her visit to Ralph. She argues ‘nothing is unbearable’—but it feels a little too easy all the same.

Helen Schlesinger is quite the opposite as American psychiatrist Agnetha, plagued with an intensity that establishes itself within a reverberating scream in the production’s opening scene—and never really leaves.

There is little to be said for sound and lighting; both design intentions clear enough but regretfully predictable, and the production suffers for it.

It is not the only problem. The production never quite finds its rhythm—and Lavery writes with rhythm. There is a lack of stillness that affords little time to reflect on the play’s provocative questions and this is sadly to its detriment.

Blueprint’s Frozen pulses forward on level ground: there is no zenith, no curated incline. We never really care and actually, we really should.