Tuesday, July 23

Frozen – Greenwich Theatre

Nancy (Kerrie Taylor) finds herself with her hands full, managing the squabbles of her two young daughters. She sends the youngest, Rhona, on a small errand only for her to encounter Ralph (James Bradshaw) along the way – a man who preys on young girls who abducts her before assaulting and killing her. Indra Ové takes on the role of Agnetha, an American academic who travels to England to study Ralph and his crimes. In case you have not gathered, Bryony Lavery’s Frozen is far from a light-hearted play; it bears no resemblance to the musical of the same name playing nearby along the Thames. 

We follow Ralph and Nancy over two decades as his crime haunts Nancy and resonates through her life. Director James Haddrell’s has clearly given a lot of thought to the staging, as Ralph and Nancy are kept apart, on opposite sides of a revolving stage, each taking their turn in the spotlight. The clever use of a transparent screen creates a haunting effect, suggesting Ralph’s lingering presence in Nancy’s life, despite their physical separation. This underscores the profound impact of Ralph’s evilness and shows how the spectre of this malevolent figure looms behind Nancy throughout her life.  

Bradshaw really captures the banality of evil in Ralph. His chilling depiction highlights Ralph’s unsettling ordinariness and his disturbingly practical and logical mindset. Ralph’s lack of remorse is stark, with his only regret being that the killing of young girls isn’t legal. His performance is not only visceral but also physical, giving the impression of a tightly coiled spring? He portrays intensity and tension with every movement and line delivery. His rigid posture and distinct verbal mannerisms enhance Ralph’s menace making for a performance that is both unmistakable and unforgettable. 

Photo: Danny With A Camera

Similarly, Taylor excels at the mother adrift, first with the hope that Rhona might be found and return home safely and then with the devastation of the discovery of her body and the conviction of Ralph. Taylor also does an excellent job imitating her other daughters’ voice as they go through these horrible events together. A scene where they visit Rhona’s body in a mortuary is particularly impactful.  

Agnetha meets Ralph to learn more of him and his background, she tries to fit his upbringing and his issues into a pattern she believes she has found in serial killers. Can a serial killer be explained by circumstances which lead to changes in their brains? Are they broken and unable to restrain themselves, are they less responsible? This piece doesn’t work very well – It never quite gets us to a stage where we might consider if Ralph was simply born evil.

It also gets caught up in a superfluous back story for Agnetha, early hints of a recent tragedy or affair come to the front but if anything, detract from the story.  

One of the core questions of Frozen becomes, what can be forgiven? Can Nancy forgive Ralph? Is restorative justice possible even under such circumstances. The eventual meeting between Nancy and Ralph feels underwhelming, it lacks any real edge. The events after they meet are much stronger and the final moments of the play come together strongly, forgiveness, restorative justice or perhaps satisfaction in revenge?

Frozen leaves the audience with a lot to ponder and talk through on the way home. Playing until 19th May, https://greenwichtheatre.org.uk/events/frozen/

Reviewer: Dave Smith

Reviewed: 29th April 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 3 out of 5.