Mark Rose writes about Bryony Lavery’s Frozen, produced by The Blueprint Theatre Company at the Park Theatre. Mark plays Ralph in the production which he has also co-produced.
It is no easy feat to get a production off the ground these days. As a small production company of three people, all with other commitments and time constraints, we have to be absolutely certain we are working with material that will make all the hard work and sacrifice worthwhile.
Bryony Lavery’s Frozen is in the consciousness of many people. There are those who never saw its original incarnations at Birmingham Rep or The National Theatre but are nevertheless aware of it and the impression it made at the time.
Critically lauded and award winning the play was an unqualified success in the UK and transferred to Broadway, where it was equally feted. So from Birmingham to London, to Broadway and back again, what is it about a play written nearly 20 years ago that resonates wherever and whenever it is presented?
The answer is in the writing. Bryony has taken a near-unpalatable subject and forged it into a piece of art; it has humanity and heart, it is bold and theatrical, it dares us to examine our reactions to a monstrous act and forces us to ask hard questions.
The subject of missing or abducted children, child murder and paedophilia is the stuff of nightmares. With child or without, we all feel the horror of such acts and the dark shadows they cast upon us.
The Missing, Broadchurch, Torn, Gone baby Gone, Amber. These are just a few of the recent fictional examinations of the very crime that Frozen brings to the stage. It seems that as a society we share a grim fixation on violence against children.
What marks Frozen out from the aforementioned examples and also from the often-sensationalised portrayals of real-life cases is that it asks the question - why? It is brave enough to ask us to stop for a moment and look beyond the knee-jerk reaction and the stereotype. Written with humanity and love, the play explores the cause, impact and aftermath of an inexplicable deed.
Blinded by our moral outrage and disgust, rarely do we stop to look at ways of stemming or changing the patterns that are present in nearly all cases. Aren’t people who commit these crimes monsters, inhuman? No, they are all too human, nearly all victims themselves. It is a hard fact to face and perhaps Frozen is part of a slow re-examination of how society deals with such offenders.
Helen Schlesinger and Mark in rehearsals
Frozen presents us with three people: Nancy, the mother of murdered Rhona; Ralph, the perpetrator and Agnetha, a psychiatrist who tries to make sense of such acts. These three characters are shown as multi dimensional and flawed. Bryony makes no pat statements about them or how they behave. The emotions they all have are compressed and focused and, as director Ian Brown observed, “the audience have their noses pressed up against the window” as the characters live out their painful and relentless experiences.
As a companion piece to the play, and in line with our remit to engage new audiences, we have created a sister project examining the themes of Frozen. In previous projects we have worked with Archmonger architects to mount a photographic exhibition and with Sugar Spun Productions to make a film. This time we partnered with the Wellcome Collection’s Catherine Walker to curate an art exhibition. Six artists all provided an original piece for the exhibition which is entitled Angels Fighting Devils. Each piece represents the artists’ response to the play and to interviews that we conducted with children aged 8 -10. The artworks line the corridor leading to the theatre space so the audience see them both prior to and after the show, thus viewing the art with what we hope will be a new perspective.
Frozen is ultimately uplifting and this is the play’s greatest triumph. It shows that even in the most incredible and traumatic of circumstances, human beings are capable of astonishing bravery and tenderness and, in the face of relentless news coverage of atrocities from all over the globe, this is something worth remembering: we have strength, we have resilience, we have love. We are not Frozen.
Mark Rose's theatre credits include: A Taste of Honey and Port (National Theatre), Women Laughing (Offie Award nomination for Best Male Performance) and This Story of Yours (The Old Red Lion), Platform Performance with Simon Stephens and Maxine Peake (National Theatre), Saturday Night and Sunday Morning (Royal Exchange), Twelfth Night (Chester), Spiders Web (Bill Kenwright number 1 tour), The Accomplice (Menier Chocolate Factory) and This Story of Yours (Old Red Lion).
Frozen runs at the Park Theatre (Park90) until Saturday 11th April 2015. Please visit www.parktheatre.co.uk for further information and tickets.
Photo Credit: Gareth McLeod