Frozen Explores Icy Region Of Human Heart

Frozen, Theatre Royal Haymarket ★★★☆☆

Neil Dowden
By Neil Dowden Last edited 7 months ago

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Frozen Explores Icy Region Of Human Heart Frozen, Theatre Royal Haymarket 3
Photo: Johan Persson

The subject matter of Bryony Lavery's 1998 play makes it difficult to watch. It focuses on the emotional paralysis of three people: Nancy, consumed by grief and anger over the brutal murder of her 10-year-old daughter Rhona; Ralph, a paedophile who has murdered Rhona; and Agnetha, a criminal psychologist who lectures on brain damage instead of evil being responsible for serial killers such as Ralph.

To start with the characters are presented separately, speaking in monologues to the audience, but later they interact with each other as their stories overlap over a period of 20 years. Gradually the frozen emotions that prevent them from moving on or developing thaw, as the possibilities of forgiveness and remorse arise. The play deals sensitively if not always convincingly with a highly emotive topic, and asks difficult questions about whether people are always capable of making moral choices and whether it is possible to forgive the most heinous crimes.

"Doctor Foster" Suranne Jones gives a moving performance as Nancy, first clinging on to hope that her missing daughter is still alive, then campaigning for the rights of bereaved parents and finally finding some kind of release. Jason Watkins gives a superbly creepy, physical portrayal of the wheedling, obsessive Ralph, himself abused as a child. Nina Sosanya shows the painful emotions underlying the cool professionalism of American academic Agnetha despite a thin back story.

Jonathan Munby's taut production features mobile screens with images of cracking ice — and a girl's face frozen in time.

Frozen, Theatre Royal Haymarket, 18 Suffolk Street, SW1Y 4HT, £10-85. Until 5 May

Last Updated 26 February 2018