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Frozen at Theatre Royal Haymarket London – Review

Suranne Jones (Nancy) and Nina Sosanya (Agnetha) in Frozen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Photo by Johan Persson
Suranne Jones (Nancy) and Nina Sosanya (Agnetha) in Frozen at the Theatre Royal Haymarket. Photo by Johan Persson

Much of the information disseminated in Frozen is in the form of a university lecture given by Agnetha (Nina Sosanya). This had a tinge of irony: university academics have, at the time of writing, just commenced industrial action in a dispute over pensions, leading to cancelled lectures and seminars. The lecture format is an appropriate and credible way to introduce some fairly sophisticated psychological details, and reach a greater understanding of why Ralph (Jason Watkins) did what he did to justify being handed down a very long custodial sentence. But in a production so lacking in pace that it reminded me of proceeding frustratingly slowly through a contraflow on the M1 on my way to Yorkshire, a lecture doesn’t help to increase engagement.

Mind you, a lecture is (or at least should be) educational rather than entertaining, so actually, Sosanya’s Agnetha effectively nails it, despite delivering it in several segments. There are, in all, thirty scenes to get through, and perhaps inevitably, none last more than a few minutes. The near-constant chopping and changing around made it difficult to focus properly on proceedings, while the shifting of tables and chairs proved more tedious than it could have been, even with various videos (Luke Halls) showing relevant images and faces. The set is so big and the projections so large they make the production look as though it belongs in a considerably smaller theatre space. Perhaps it does.

This is a production that would, frankly, have been done better in this day and age by considerably speeding up the show and making it one of those intense ninety-minute no-interval plays. Bryony Lavery’s writing is perceptive and cohesive, and some of the ideas put forward make a lot of sense at a micro level (at a macro level, we already know serial murderers could hardly be said to have their mental faculties entirely intact). Watkins’ Ralph is thoroughly convincing as a perpetrator of crime that is proven by Agnetha to have an abnormal brain structure and yet, eventually, proves capable of feeling remorse after all.

Nancy (Suranne Jones), meanwhile, the mother of one of Ralph’s victims, is not exactly one-dimensional. But in contrast to the uninhibited Ralph, who spouts whatever is on his mind without a scintilla of concern as to how his thoughts will be received by others, Nancy comes across as someone holding back. In other words, one is never quite sure that she says what she means: for example when she meets with Ralph and says to his face that she ‘forgives’ him for what he did, it’s just not very convincing. The dialogue of the final scene all but confirms that Agnetha was right – the meeting between Nancy and Ralph should never have taken place.

It’s not easy, of course, and – let’s be fair – there are many people (including me) who would struggle to look a killer in the eye and say such words, whatever their true sentiments. Still, one should come away from a show with a storyline like this with some revulsion and/or intrigue. Instead, I left the theatre not having much sympathy for any of the on-stage characters. To deem it Frozen by name and frozen by nature is too harsh. But this production’s values do not do full justice to the richness of Lavery’s text.

3 Star Review

Review by Chris Omaweng

One sunny evening a young girl walks to visit her Grandma, she never arrives…
A play about retribution, remorse and redemption, Frozen explores the interwoven lives of three strangers as they try to make sense of the unimaginable.

Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster, Scott & Bailey), Jason Watkins (Line of Duty, Taboo, W1A) and Nina Sosanya (W1A, Last Tango in Halifax) star in Frozen, Bryony Lavery’s award-winning play. This psychological thriller about a mother whose child goes missing is directed by Jonathan Munby and plays a strictly limited twelve-week season at the Theatre Royal Haymarket from Friday 9th February 2018.

Suitable for age 15+. The play contains very strong language and content that some may find disturbing.

FROZEN
Theatre Royal Haymarket
Haymarket
London SW1Y 4HT
Dates: Friday 9 February – Saturday 5 May 2018

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