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Review: Frozen, at Theatre Royal Haymarket

The strength of Bryony Lavery’s play about a murdering paedophile lies in three stunning performances

08 March, 2018 — By Howard Loxton

Jason Watkins in Frozen

NOTHING to do with the Disney film (the stage version of which is currently previewing in Broadway), this is a revival of Bryony Lavery’s play about a murdering paedophile and three lives that need to be freed from the trauma that traps them.

It is a story that is told by three voices, at first individually that begins with American criminologist Agnetha breaking down in tears as she leaves home for a research trip to Europe. Then it jumps back two decades as English mother Nancy describes how, fed up with daughter Rhona’s pestering, she sent her to visit her grandma. She didn’t get there. The third voice is Ralph who spotted the 10-year-old and feigning friendship got her to go with him.

Nancy founds a support group for those with missing children. She believes Rhona will return one day until Ralph is linked with her disappearance and that of other young girls. It becomes clear he has killed them. His meticulous ordering of things has let him down.

Now the monologues turn into conversations: Agnetha interviews Ralph and speaks to Nancy, and Nancy confronts her child’s murderer.

Jonathan Munby’s production makes the action concentrated and simple and consequently gripping.

Though laden with visual effects and dramatic music to help it fill the space, its strength lies in three stunning performances. Suranne Jones shows what it feels like to lose your child, at first in denial, then revengeful, then would-be forgiving. Nina Sosanya, whose Agnetha has her own personal trauma, presents scientific theories of criminality with clarity, links physical and emotional battering with brain changes.

Jason Watkins is superbly chilling as a man without empathy who asks in his flat midland voice “What is that remorse?” On hearing Rhona had a sister he seems to display some humanity only to instantly lose interest on realising she is grown up: so much is distilled into that one wordless moment.

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