Review for Frozen
The Complex Theatre, Monday 26th May 2014

Reviewer Catherine Siggins


Critical Action Theatre Company has brought together an exceptional team to create a production of the highest quality, for their first outing, Frozen by Bryony Lavery, to showcase a promising future. It opens with a series of monologues from the three main characters. We learn that Ralph has abducted, sexually assaulted and killed Nancy’s daughter, one of many children he has killed over the years, in a local shed. Agnetha, a psychiatrist, is traveling to the UK to continue her research on serial killers, and interview Ralph. The play covers a period of 20 years, most of which Nancy spends holding on to hope of her daughter’s return, eventually learning the brutal truth, which happened on her doorstep. 
The title of the play refers to the emotional state of all three characters, emotionally frozen in different ways by traumatic events they have lived.
Based on real people and events, most notably on psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, and Marian Partington, sister of a victim of serial killers Frederick and Rosemary West, the play asks the question, when and how does it become possible to forgive the unforgiveable? Lavery’s two women provide a possible answer from two very different sides, one based on understanding the killers own history of childhood abuse and physical injury that contributed to abnormal brain function and behavior, the other, on a mother’s need to reclaim her life before her pain and anger destroy her. 
Anthony Mark Barrow directs a taut production, and he is definitely a director to watch. His time working with Debra Warner no doubt having been a strong influence, he has cast powerful actors equal to the emotional shifts of the play. He has chosen to let the play run uninterrupted, at approximately 1h 20mins, which is a smart move, as it intensifies the tension as it builds through the play, a gift to his performers, who have gone deep into their character’s worlds. 
All the cast excel, even John Delbarian and Nicklaus Von Nolde, as Guards, who mostly are silently standing to the sides but engaged throughout.  The performances are all very realistic, and well observed. 
Serena Berné plays Agnetha with conviction and great humor. She shifts between emotional crisis and professional detachment with ease. We do wonder whether this woman is not herself suffering a mental collapse and whether she should be spending so much time with the criminally insane.  
John Perkins is mesmerizing as Ralph.
Troy Titus-Adams gives a powerful, moving portrayal, and brilliantly captures the mundanity of Nancy, her small town existence. Her pain is palpable; it drives her performance, at times wrung out to the point of breaking. Her encounter with Ralph is genuinely moving.
John Pirkis gives a mesmerizing performance as Ralph, a manipulative, remorseless pedophile, all smiles and charming banter, concealing his warped intentions. His physical work, each twitch and compulsive mannerism speaks volumes as his self-assurance and arrogance come apart to reveal a broken soul beneath. Pirkis elicits true sympathy for this monster of a man. 
Set Designer, Gregg Rainwater, uses minimal set to maximum effect, corrugated sheeting suggests a cold purgatory. Bold color imagery, with artful use of lighting by Sabrina Beattie, and imaginative use of the back wall, gives a cinematic feel. The sound track of reggae and The Clash fix you firmly in 80’s Britain.
This play comes at you like a brick to the head. Uncompromising. Shocking. It engenders a definite feeling of discomfort and pathos.
This production is a must see! 

Tickets available here:  LAST THREE PERFORMANCES - RUSH!


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