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Review - Frozen starring Suranne Jones at the Theatre Royal Haymarket

Mark Shenton
Mark Shenton

By an interesting coincidence, there's a musical called Frozen beginning performances on Broadway on Thursday (22nd February), but two days ahead of it a play sharing the exact same title opened at the West End's Theatre Royal Haymarket. But no, you won't hear "Let It Go" sung at the latter.  You will, however, hear the identical phrase spoken: a mother whose ten-year-old daughter Rhona went missing twenty years earlier, and her 33-year old-daughter Ingrid, she reports, has told her after her murderer is discovered: "Let it go... like a bird into the wind."

That's par for the course for the touchy-feely language that playwright Bryony Lavery ladles on like a spoon to her episodically structured drama, which also comes equipped with pseudo-science about the motivations and different brains of serial killers. 

This is also, by another coincidence, the second play in the space of a week to revolve around the abuse of children, after Girls & Boys at the Royal Court. But it is, alas, not by a country mile as either compulsively addictive than Frozen the Musical or as compellingly gripping as Girls & Boys

Instead, its both painfully predictable and predictably painful to watch. Yes, you empathise - you'd be a bad person not to - but what exactly do you gain from watching it? The message seems to be that forgiveness might set you free - but imprison the person who caused you the pain. 

That's not a lot of dramatic payback for two and a half hours replaying these disturbing events, as the mother, the murderer and a visiting American researcher into these crimes circle around each other, most often in monologues. 

Jonathan Munby's slick production is dominated by screens onto which are projected various indistinct images. Instead its left to three fine actors to try to animate the proceedings. BAFTA Award-winning Suranne Jones (Doctor Foster) plays the mother with a flat Northern accent and an earnest furrowed brow. Jason Watkins is the tattooed paedophile and Nina Sosanya is the academic. All are worth watching. The play, however, is not. 

Frozen is at the Theatre Royal Haymarket until 5th May.

Frozen Tickets are available now. 

What the popular press said...

"The performances match the intensity of the writing. Jones captures excellently the contradictory emotions of Nancy, whose grief is accentuated by a residual guilt and whose lust for revenge gives way to a destructive forgiveness."
Michael Billington, the Guardian (four stars)

"The strongest scene in Jonathan Munby's revival sees Ralph come face-to-face with Nancy. It's one of the play's less predictable moments, and here Jones really nails her character's mix of fragility and dignity."
Henry Hitchings, the Evening Standard (three stars) 

"It's arguable that this role is Jones's toughest assignment yet. Not just because she's being forced to confront, nightly, every parent's worst nightmare, but because Lavery gives so little opportunity for fully airing the emotional fall-out of that sickening horror."
Dominic Cavendish, the Telegraph (three stars)

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