In a day and age where talks of serial killers and pedophiles is taboo, Frozen, written by Bryony Lavery, directed by Andrew Freund, and hosted by EN(LIVE)N Productions, explores and challenges how we assess what is unspeakable and horrific, based on what the media tells us. The venue of the show is The Box Studio, an old coffin factory in the heart of downtown Toronto, causing the hair on the back of one’s neck to rise before even entering the space.
Frozen pushes the boundaries of comfortability and has the audience submersed in the setting of the play before it even begins. The audience is scattered around the room, sitting within the set, rather than in front of it. The sound of screaming and dim roars can be heard faintly in the room. Hanging nooses, voodoo dolls, photos, video tapes and other trinkets dangle from the ceiling in ominous lighting while the actors pace around the room in character the entire time.
Nancy Shirley (Lavetta Griffin), an English woman, recalls the disappearance and murder of her daughter Rona, who was snatched by a psychologically disturbed pedophile named Ralph (Peter Nelson). Agnetha (Lynn Zeelenberg), an emotionally troubled psychologist, attempts to dig deep into the twisted thoughts of Ralph, while instructing the audience about what it means to truly be evil. These three characters, all fighting their own emotional battles, come together under horrific circumstances as the show explores a deeper meaning of what it means to be damaged.
Andrew Freund does a phenomenal job at having his actors not only act out each moment, but live in each moment. The story is based on real people – people whom we either know, know of, or have seen in the news. The actors take extreme risks talking to the audience and having them feel like bystanders within these memories.
Set designer Natalia Tcherniak does a wonderful job at creating a dark and uncomfortable space and the actors use every inch of it, taking the audience out of their safety shells and having them live out these traumatic memories with the actors. The hanging props from the ceiling serve a purpose throughout the show and the actors use them in helping to tell their stories.
All three actors were incredible, versatile and immersed in the emotional roller coasters their characters were riding. Peter Nelson, as Ralph, was outstanding and had the entire audience engaged in his every word. Dark, disturbed and emotionally broken, Nelson managed to make Ralph not only a twisted character but our worst nightmare.
Frozen captures the essence of fear and picks apart our thoughts about what is horrific and unbearable, forcing us to relive the characters’ disturbing memories, and causing the hairs on our necks to rise. Without a hint of blood or violence, Frozen tears apart our consciences and becomes our worst nightmare.