Frozen

Bryony Lavery
Fresh Glory Productions
York Theatre Royal Studio
(2008)

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In Lavery's provocative play three characters revolve around the awful events of child abuse and murder. The American psychologist and scientist Agnetha (Rosalind Cressy) travels to England to lecture on paedophilia and study some inmates convicted of this crime. The Northern mother, Nancy (Dorothy Lawrence) spends years in torment hoping for the return of her lost child only to find, twenty years later that Rhona was abducted and killed by a local paedophile. And finally Ralph Wantage (Jack James), the perpetrator of this crime, takes us on a psychological journey into the mind and motivations of such an individual. Not only do we explore 'the frozen arctic sea that is the criminal brain' but also the frozen lives of those who this horrific crime affects.

In order to give us such insight into these shattered lives, Lavery gives her characters monologues throughout as well as putting Agnetha on stage lecturing on her subject, interspersed with her interviews with Ralph in prison. Using quotes from Dorthory Otnow Lewis M.D. and Dr Jonathan Pincus' neuropsychiatric work on murders, Agnetha questions whether the deeds of these criminals are rather more 'symptom than sin', when their brain structure is continually shown to display abnormalities. (Fascinating as this is, it is also what caused controversy at the initial opening of the play, with Lavery being accused of plagiarism over these citations.)

Although all the performances are highly competent, with Jack James standing out as Ralph, this production lacks a fluidity of action and story telling. Whilst the many monologues certainly allow us to become immersed in the idea that these are 'frozen' lives, it also becomes too slow and prolonged to maintain our interest throughout. Cressy's performance as the American doctor also becomes repetitive at times with some overworked displays of a guilty conscience. This is not helped by an uncomplimentary set and some clunky scene changes. Although the staging of a tiered grey platform is stark, it lacks a visual cohesion which makes any sort of statement. What could be seen as understated in Lucy Wilkinson's design in fact comes across as amateur.

Whilst the subject matter cannot help but be thought provoking, Fresh Glory's production ends leaving you slightly cold. Lavery's usual sardonic wit shines through but the somewhat neat ending shows that contemporary writing exploring paedophilia must deliver what society wants the criminal to feel at the end of the journey.

Zia Trench reviewed this production at the Riverside Studios

Reviewer: Cecily Boys