The Theatreguide.London Review
Haymarket Theatre Spring 2018
Bryony Lavery's 1997 play is an intense, inward-looking three-hander (There are also a couple of silent extras, giving the understudies stage time) whose power is dissipated somewhat in the cavernous Haymarket Theatre. Still, enough of its passions and ideas remain to make a moving and thought-provoking evening.
Drawing on a number of published sources (to the extent of being faced with charges of plagiarism) Lavery tells of the abduction and murder of a child, and of the twenty-year after-effects on the murderer, the child's mother and an academic studying the case.
Her title suggests both that all three have their lives stopped and defined by that one event and that all three have to develop emotion-suppressing coldness to cope with the horror.
The murderer (Jason Watkins) is a true sociopath, who sees no moral content to his action at all, and can only think in terms of efficiency and OCD-like neatness. The grieving mother (Suranne Jones) directs all her passion into becoming a professional grieving mother, giving speeches and heading related charities.
And the psychologist (Nina Sosanya) retreats into academic objectivity, using this case as evidence for her theory that serial killers are all victims of physically malformed or damaged brains.
All three characters have some difficulty maintaining their dispassionate masks, which is another way of saying all three actors get to do things that actors love to do – alternate between subtle indications of repressed passions and complete emotional breakdowns.
And all three actors – and, because all three are skilled performers, the audience as well – have obvious fun exercising their craft.
Watkins in particular is chilling as a very ordinary and nondescript little man who happens to kill children whenever the mood strikes him. But Sosanya lets us sense, without ever spelling it out, that the academic is struggling to convince herself as much as anyone else of her neat psychological theories.
And, playing the one character who is allowed to grow and change in the course of the play's twenty years, Jones makes believable both the extent and limit of her transformation.
Jonathan Munby's direction and Paul Wills' design sometimes threaten to overpower both play and actors in the need to fill the large Haymarket stage.
But keep your eye on the three principals, and on the skill of their performances as much as the story they're telling, and Frozen will reward you.
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