Review: Frozen

ANGELA LIU and EMILIE FERRIS are remarkably unanimous on the well acted end of term treat.

Bryony Levany George Johnston Oliver O'Shea Robinson Tom Adams

Wednesday 10th – Friday 12th, 8.00 in Robinson College Auditorium. £4.

Directed by Oliver O’Shea

ANGELA LIU gives all credit to the cast:

Firstly, a shout-out to Tom Adams who, as the Guard, stood on stage for almost two hours – in silence. His moment in the spotlight was when he got to step forward and inhale. What was clearly a gripping test of acting skill was managed very well.

In fact, he was the cherry on top of a solid cast. Brid Arnstein slipped between condescending medical professional and tortured loner with eerie ease. Some of the most absorbing scenes were between Arnstein and George Johnston, playing her medical subject, as it became clear that the madness was not solely concentrated on one side of the dialogue. Johnston gave a consistently excellent performance, balancing menace with an unnervingly compelling soul. Ayoola Alabi, as the mother of Ralph’s last victim, shone in moments of creepy intensity and frustrated anger, although at times her emotional reflections felt stilted.

However, my hesitation about this play lies in its lack of originality. The plot panned out like a dot-to-dot: murder – forgiveness – remorse – zzzzzz. At one point during my note-taking I scrawled ‘TRITE’ across my page, which apparently is my knee-jerk reaction to dialogue which runs in the vein of: ‘Where does it hurt, Ralph?’ ‘Here.’ Cue hand on heart. ‘That’s remorse, Ralph.’ Oh. He has heartache. To be fair, Bryony Lavery’s style has a lot of potential: certain scenes are beautifully paced, and her successful handling of the disturbing and the cold makes up for weaknesses in expressing softer emotions.

The use of sound effects was somewhat curious. At one point, Johnston’s character spoke of having his mouth washed out with soap. In case the audience was having difficulties understanding this obviously incomprehensible image, the sound of a droplet of water was helpfully blasted out of a speaker. Um, thanks?

During the interval, the audience member next to me walked out of the auditorium. The play was better than that, if only as a vehicle for three clearly talented actors. Go and see it. Or read ‘The Lovely Bones’, or something.

EMILIE FERRIS proposes that ‘All in all, “Frozen” is a satisfying and rewarding piece of work’:

‘Can we maintain that certain crimes are unforgivable even when they are beyond our control?’ Lavery seems to be asking.  But, with the sudden inexplicable abundance of serial killer themed plays such as Max Barton’s No Magic in Cambridge, the subject matter of murder and its consequences appear surprisingly quotidian and repetitive.

In spite of this, Frozen relies not upon its inherent plot, but the expertise of its actors who arguably bring a somewhat defunct intrigue to life. Johnston raises hairs as Ralph Wantage, delivering a fantastic performance as victim turned abuser, singular in its riveting presence as he commands the stage entirely. He works well with Arnstein’s Dr Gottmundsdottir who seemingly effortlessly sinks into her role of psychoanalyst. Ayoola Alabi’s delivery as Nancy Shirley, the bewildered mother, was at times spot on, conveying the exact mannerisms of a mother oscillating between despair as a slummy mummy to the proprietarily attired Capable Woman.

Nonetheless, perhaps due to latent influences within the script, Alabi’s Nancy occasionally appeared to fluctuate perplexingly between irreverence and inherent dislike of her children to hoarse grief, thus rendering it unclear as to her proper state of mind. Alabi does, however, conduct the familial setting very professionally as she re-enacts conversations with a pleasing natural inflection.

However, on a purely practical level, the very opening scene was unconvincing and rather weakly staged. With its sudden and unexpected bursts of emotion, it provoked uncertain titters from a nonplussed audience.  The props were rather crude and unsophisticated, but, it’s a low budget show.

All in all, Frozen is a satisfying and rewarding piece of work. There are occasional awkward moments on stage, particularly as silences, designed to generate an awed atmosphere, fail to produce the desired effect, but the performances by the three main figures are strong, each of the individual traits of their character brought out to fantastic effect.