Frozen (4 stars)

North Edinburgh Arts Centre, then touring until Sat 11 Dec


From Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’s seriously scary child catchers, who genuinely haunted you as a child, to tragic real life news stories like that of Sarah Payne, which disturb you throughout adulthood, the subject of the suffering of children commands a tremendous amount of attention in both the media and our imagination. Bryony Laverey’s play bravely confronts these issues head on.

This evocative piece is about the consequences of a child’s murder. Nancy’s (Gerda Stevenson) ten-year-old daughter Rhona goes missing one afternoon and is never seen again. We see Nancy’s suffering over the years contrasting with killer Ralph’s (John Kazek) continuing murders and eventual arrest. In prison he becomes more human as a case study for criminal psychologist Agnetha (Joanna Tope) where his past is uncovered.

Rapture’s production examines revenge, reconciliation, the resilience of hope and dealing with loss. Michael Emans’ understated direction cleverly evokes the beauty of Laverey’s language, creating a fine balance between pity, revulsion, sadness and anger. Made up of interlinking monologues with occasional dialogue, you empathise with both Nancy and, surprisingly, Ralph. Perhaps the hardest thing is how the play forces you to consider the paedophile serial killer as a human being. It’s the age old ‘nature versus nurture’ debate; is he inherently evil or has his own abusive childhood made him that way? The tension builds as you emotionally invest in these characters until the climactic meeting 20 years on between mother and murderer. She’s been frozen in her grief, Ralph in his traumatic childhood experiences. The ice metaphor continues through Lyn McAndrew’s stark white set but it’s Graham Sutherland’s echoing eerie sounds of children laughing amongst an array of perfectly timed sound effects that add colour to their frigid world. While it occasionally teeters on stereotype, the experienced and talented trio of actors expertly rein it in, creating a surprisingly compelling piece with perhaps another villain for your nightmares.

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