Friday, 20 March 2015

Theatre review: Frozen

Bryony Lavery is a writer whose name is attached to a lot of work, but it's often the text for a high-concept production like the immersive Kursk, where the script isn't necessarily the star. When the staging lacks something - as with the disappointing Treasure Island - I haven't seen her writing rise above it. So I was interested to see what is presumably one of the plays that made her name, 2002's Frozen, inspired by the surviving relatives of Fred West's victims. Nancy (Sally Grey) is a mother whose youngest daughter Rhona disappeared at the age of 10, but her faith that she's still alive keeps her going, even leading her to start a charity searching for missing children. Her hopes are finally dashed when serial killer Ralph (Mark Rose) is caught, and Rhona is revealed to have been one of his victims. Nancy's energies now go into wishing she could confront him and take revenge.

Psychiatrist Agnetha (Helen Schlesinger) is continuing the work she was doing with her recently-deceased partner, into the minds of serial killers, something she compares to exploring the Arctic (but the cold never bothered her anyway.) She's particularly interested in how their brains' development might have been stalled by childhood abuse, essentially delving into the issue of whether their crimes can be considered unforgivable and evil, if their brains have no capacity to understand the concept.

The subject matter hasn't dated in the 13 years since Frozen was first staged, although there's since been more plays dealing with paedophilia and murder, and I feel as if it's been done better: The first act in particular feels vague and overlong - it's only when the story finally began to coalesce that I realised I'd been watching a full 40 minutes of setup. Although there's always something a bit underpowered about Ian Brown's production, the second act is a major improvement, as the story starts to pull all its strings together, with some of the outcomes pretty interesting. But it does take the slow, scenic route getting there.

Frozen by Bryony Lavery is booking until the 11th of April at Park Theatre 90.

Running time: 2 hours 5 minutes including interval.

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