Previewed 9 February 2018, Opened 20 February 2018, Closed 5 May 2018 at the Haymarket Theatre Royal
A major production of Bryony Lavery's play Frozen in London starring Suranne Jones and Jason Watkins
One sunny evening, 10-year-old Rhoda goes missing. Her mother, Nancy, retreats into a state of frozen hope. Agnetha, an American academic comes to England to research a thesis Serial Killing - a forgivable act? Then there's Ralph, a loner with a bit of previous who's looking for some distraction...
Drawn together by horrific circumstances, these three embark upon a long dark journey which finally curves upward into the light.
The cast features Suranne Jones as 'Nancy' and Jason Watkins as 'Ralph' with Nina Sosanya as 'Agnetha'. Directed by Jonathan Munby with designs by Paul Wills, video by Luke Halls, lighting by Jon Clark, music by Rupert Cross and sound by Christopher Shutt.
When this production opened here at the Haymarket Theatre in February 2018, Michael Billington in the Guardian said: "First seen 20 years ago, Bryony Lavery's play has lost none of its power to shock... An astute production by Jonathan Munby and a highly accomplished cast ensures that we look beyond the immediate horror of the situation to ask questions about society's, and our own, instinctive hunger for retribution." Paul Taylor in the i newspaper praised this "powerfully acted" production - "Suranne Jones wrenches the heart as a mother who lives in hope for years... Jason Watkins is transfixingly creepy... Nina Sosanya works wonders with the almost impossible role of the Icelandic-American criminal psychologist." Ian Shuttleworth in the Financial Times thought that "Bryony Lavery may overdo the glacial metaphors, but she examines matters with candour and sympathy from a range of angles in what is surely her masterpiece as a playwright. Jonathan Munby's cast act with skill and sensitivity... and one leaves the theatre both emotionally affected and wrapped in thought." Henry Hitchings in the London Evening Standard wrote: "In truth, Frozen is a piece better suited to an intimate venue. In order to make it fill this large space there are distracting visuals that overtax the central metaphor. Yet even if its subtleties are smothered, there's still a chilling authenticity in the play's understanding that evil tends to come not in radical guises, but in banal ones." Dominic Cavendish in the Daily Telegraph highlighted that "the night - provocatively - belongs to Jason Watkins, who gives one of the finest performances of his career as the serial child-killer." Dominic Maxwell in the Times commented that, "good play though it is, you doubt it would be playing in the West End without Suranne Jones in the cast." Neil Norman in the Daily Express described how "Suranne Jones is simply terrific as the mother whose prowling grief is caged by denial... Nina Sosanya does what she can with Agnetha, which is a lot... Jason Watkins is astonishing."
Suranne Jones' London theatre credits include the role of 'Sandra' in Nikolai Foster's 20th Anniversary production of Jonathan Harvey's Beautful Thing at the Arts Theatre in 2013; the role of 'Marlene' in Max Stafford-Clark's revival of Caryl Churchill's Top Girls at the Trafalgar Studios in 2011; and the role of 'Joanne Galloway' in David Esbjornson's West End stage premiere of Aaron Sorkin's A Few Good Men at the Haymarket Theatre in 2005. Jason Watkins' West End theatre credits include the role of 'Trevor' in Loveday Ingram's revival of Alan Ayckbourn's Bedroom Farce at the Aldwych Theatre in 2002; and the title role in Tim Supple's staging of Lee Hall new adaptation of Carlo Goldoni's comedy A Servant of Two Masters for the Royal Shakespeare Company at the Ambassadors Theatre and the Noel Coward Theatre in 2001. Nina Sosanya's London stage credits include the role of 'Mae' in Debbie Allen's revival of Tennessee Williams' Cat on a Hot Tin Roof at the Novello Theatre in 2010. Jonathan Munby's West End credits include co-directing, along with Gregory Doran, Rebecca Gatward, Mike Poulton's stage adaptation of Geoffrey Chaucer's Canterbury Tales at the Gielgud Theatre in 2006 for the Royal Shakespeare Company.
"We're familiar with Suranne Jones and Jason Watkins playing gritty roles in TV dramas Doctor Foster and Line of Duty. But their performances in Bryony Lavery's Frozen are both gripping and unspeakably chilling. The play opens with a series of monologues by grieving mum Nancy , twisted loner Ralph and American psychologist Agnetha... As we delve deeper, Ralph emerges as a sinister character who sexually abused and murdered Nancy's 13-year-old daughter. Nancy's anger transforms over the 20-year span to her eventual meeting with Ralph to forgive him in prison. The tour de force here is Watkins, horribly convincing and repulsive as a paedophile with a deceptively warm Brummie accent. Jonathan Munby's thought-provoking production is an uneasy watch, but well worth it." The Sunday Mirror
"Bryony Lavery's Frozen first appeared in 1998, and now it's revived in a bleak, powerful production that feels astonishingly up to date... There are just three main characters in this harrowing story, distressing and gripping from start to finish. There's Rhona's mother, Nancy, beautifully and naturally played by Suranne Jones... There's the case psychiatrist, Agnetha, played by Nina Sosanya, clever but tormented, struggling to come to terms with more than just the horrors of this case... Then there's the complacent, cheery little force of destruction himself, Ralph, played with chilling brilliance by Jason Watkins... There's never a moment when we find Ralph likeable, but as the play progresses we are supposed to reach some understanding, perhaps some pity. There is, though, something schematic and predictable in the unfolding of his own past and childhood, which was, unsurprisingly, not a happy one. Yet the overwhelming sense is of a man irreparably damaged and morally corrupted. When Nancy finally reaches some sort of conclusion with him, visiting him in prison, it's for her own peace of mind, not his. As the play repeatedly reminds you, in a series of cruelly truthful shocks, this is never going to be a good or penitent man... It's impossible to describe this play as enjoyable, but horribly compelling and intensely of our time: yes." The Sunday Times
"We know from her Bafta-winning performance in the thriller Doctor Foster that Suranne Jones can depict internalised torment to a degree that is scary to watch. Like few other actors, she can mix suffering with steely resolve in a way that you know is going to end in revenge. But for Bryony Lavery's thoroughly researched and disturbing 1998 three-hander the acting challenge is far greater. And Jones, gaunt with grief, meets it superbly well, portraying fathoms-deep levels of anguish and anger out of which an unexpected dignity eventually emerges. It is a quality that allows us to leave this hard-to-watch, gripping play with hope that even for Nancy it is possible for the human spirit to prevail. Yet it is Jones's fellow Bafta-winning actor Watkins whose performance sears itself into the memory like a branding iron... Here, he captures the terrifying banality of a serial child killer, the utter absence of remorse, and his pride in the skill with which he carries out his atrocities. Jonathan Munby's taut production would feel highly exploitative of our greatest fears if this play was a run-of-the-mill whodunnit. But the research carried by Sosanya's forensically minded academic Agnetha is concerned not with who, but why. Her revelations about what makes a child killer emerge out of a series of incredibly tense scenes in which she meets Watkins's killer in prison. And it is here that just a little bit of our fear is replaced with understanding, and what makes the most harrowing play you are likely to see in a long time worthwhile." The London Metro
Frozen in London at the Haymarket Theatre Royal previewed from 9 February 2018, opened on 20 February 2018 and closes on 5 May 2018
Frozen - Original London Production 2002
Previewed 28 June 2002, Opened 3 July 2002, Closed 24 August 2002 (in repertory) at the National Theatre's Cottesloe Theatre (now Dorfman Theatre)
The London Premiere of Bryony Lavery's play that was first seen at the Birmingham Rep Theatre in 1998 in a production directed by Bill Alexander
The cast features Anita Dobson as 'Nancy', Tom Georgeson as 'Ralph' and Josie Lawrence as 'Agnetha' who all reprise their roles from the Birmingham Rep Theatre staging. In London they are joined by George Eggay, Jack Pierce, and Stuart Milligan (on video). Directed by Bill Alexander with designs by Ruari Murchison, lighting by Paul Pyant, music by Jonathan Goldstein and sound by David Tinson.
"Interesting to discover that of the three characters in Bryony Lavery's play Frozen, Ralph the child killer is the most sympathetic. Frozen is composed mostly of solo staccato streams of consciousness. And which voice is the most compelling? The pitifully brittle bereaved parent? The lonely American psychologist who understands the abnormality of Ralph's brain, and therefore knows where evil comes from? No. What makes Frozen remarkable is the presentation of the self-justified evil person, in all his Brummie banality... You expect it to be about the miracle of forgiveness, but in the end Frozen isn't quite up to dealing with that. One minute Dobson's Nancy is declaring she'll never forgive; the next she is confronting Ralph in prison, forcing him to accept what he's done. Still, it is an absorbing play. At its heart is a debate about moral responsibility: is Ralph capable of understanding his crime? For a long time the answer appears to be a controversial no - until, all of a sudden, it becomes a more reassuring yes." The Daily Mail
"Frozen, atmospherically delivered in 32 scenes, many of them interrelated monologues, brings three people to a close encounter of the darkest kind. Shafts of light illuminate Ruari Murchison's bare stage design, while back-wall lightings create the illusion of a dreamy barrier. Josie Lawrence's bereft Agnetha, a New York professor of psychiatry, Nancy, a lower-middle class mother, and Ralph, a loner whose musings suggest an obsession with order and control, are linked by childmurder... Anita Dobson's winsome Nancy, first seen basking in domestic content, reacts to her daughter Rhona's disappearance by clinging to the belief she will return. When, 20 years later, the girl's corpse is discovered, she craves vengeance. The process by which she comes to forgive Ralph, her daughter's killer, appears sentimental and factitious... The vivid eloquence of Lavery's writing and the force of the central performances are redeeming features. Tom Georgeson's stupendous Ralph, with his haunted, harried face and his inferno of rages and griefs, chills the blood. And Anita Dobson's over-glamorous Nancy compellingly charts an astonishing rebirth." The London Evening Standard
"Bill Alexander stages the play simply and sparely, as befits a play that consists largely of direct address and, at one point, of a lecture given by an American criminal psychologist to a British audience. Agnetha, as this character is called, provides an understandably edgy Josie Lawrence with several opportunities: to discuss neurological and physiological research; to raise key questions of good, evil, moral responsibility and deep, deep sickness; to suggest that contact with serial killers has damaged her, as it must anyone; and, now and then, to allow Tom Georgeson's Ralph and Anita Dobson's Nancy to move beyond monologue... Georgeson's terrifyingly wintry, yet horribly forlorn, Ralph... is a brilliant performance, and it's matched by Dobson's. Her emotional journey is more predictable than his - hope that little Rona will come home, obsessive efforts to trace her, ferocious rage and disfiguring hatred, a bust marriage and a spiritual resurgence... Lavery and her cast make you see the complexity of the issues, clinical as well as moral. They also make you feel the loss, the pain, the unbearable waste." The Times
Frozen in London at the Cottesloe Theatre (now Dorfman Theatre) at the National Theatre previewed from 28 June 2002, opened on 3 July 2002 and closed on 24 August 2002 (in repertory)