Frozen

Tue 17th – Sat 21st November 2015

reviews

Tom Whittaker

at 22:32 on 17th Nov 2015

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Before we go any further, there are three extremely good reasons to go and see ‘Frozen’. In no particular order, they are Eleanor Lind Booton (as paedophilic serial killer Ralph), Xelia Mendes-Jones (as Nancy, grieving mother of one of Ralph’s victims), and Rachel-Marie Weiss (as Agnetha, a psychiatrist examining Ralph). Together, this triplet makes up one of the most polished, confident, and emotive acting troupes I have seen this year on Cambridge’s drama scene. Thoroughly at ease with their personas, their collective ability to stay in character over what is a relatively long play (around two hours) with absolutely no time spent offstage is seriously impressive, and deserves applause.

The characterisation, driven by Bryony Lavery’s Tony Award-winning script, is good; layer upon layer of moody understanding of each character builds throughout the play and an attentive audience member willing to invest effort into the performance will get a great deal in return from these multifaceted personalities.

Indeed, ‘Frozen’ has an awful lot of deep, thorny issues to wrestle with, and it absolutely is not a light-hearted evening’s entertainment. We are presented with three individuals who are evidently mentally unstable – albeit in different ways – and asked to ponder how, if circumstances had been just slightly different, the role of perpetrator, victim, and psychiatrist could so easily swap between them. After all, they are all emotionally disturbed. They all express cold, blunt desire to murder at various points throughout the play. They are all, then, potential psychopaths.

‘Frozen’ continues to play with our perception of the crime; certainly, Ralph’s wrongdoing (the sexual assault and murder of seven young girls) is awful beyond all description, but by the play’s end he was the only character I was convinced had some measure of remorse. The icy, dead-eyed Agnetha staring blankly into the crowd whilst firing punishing questions at Ralph (who rather assumes the role of a lab rat) seemingly has no emotional spectrum at all, whilst Nancy, in her single-minded pursuit of Ralph’s death at all costs (whilst simultaneously and hollowly claiming to forgive him) harries Ralph to the absolute edge of humanity in a final quarter that reveals sympathy-garnering information about his childhood. Nancy, unmoved, says she would be ‘glad’ if he died. The question of who we feel most sympathy for – if anyone – is left wide open in a manner sure to get the audience thinking about the nature of insanity and forgiveness.

There is, unfortunately, a major problem with ‘Frozen’. It drags. The actors do a noteworthy job of trying to make the best of it, but one senses that they have been constrained by directing decisions that really start to detract from the play. The decision (assuming that this was not due to a technical fault) to simply speak all stage directions and never vary the lighting give the show a monotonous feel; the characters may be in totally different locations around the world, but we never get any indication of that. Additionally, the pace painfully crawls; it goes beyond being a slow burn and becomes a competition to see who can deliver their lines the slowest, as though this gives them more resonance. It does not. The result is a show that never gets going – indeed, it appears to slow down the further it goes. It got to the stage where even breaking into ‘Let It Go’ would have given the show a much-needed gale of fresh air to liven up its wearisome monologues.

When the climax arrived it was almost by surprise; much of the audience was visibly beginning to tire of the overly protracted dialogue, and by that point no amount of acting talent could save this production from freezing over.

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