by Bryony Lavery.
Park Theatre (Park 90) Clifton Terrace Finsbury Park To 11 April 2015.
Tue-Sat 7.45pm Mat Thu & Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 0207 870 6876.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 1 April.
Drama of rare perception revived with a terrifying portrait of tortured self-loathing.
Everyone is frozen in Bryony Lavery’s remarkable 1998 play. Agnetha, an American expert on serial killer mentalities, of Icelandic descent, has lost her colleague and lover in an accident. Helen Schlesinger, who goes on to combine a professional manner in her work with a sense of personal grief, begins Ian Brown’s production with a long shriek of utter agony.
In England she interviews child abductor Ralph, his mind frozen from violent childhood abuse which leave him torturing himself with justifications and underlying intense self-hate for his revenge on vulnerability and innocence. His skilled manipulation of children’s sense of good behaviour, with its sense of threat masked by kindness as he lures another child into his van, is all we need to sense the horror of his psyche and the terrible exploitation of childhood trust.
It’s not hard to realise why Nancy, mother of abducted 10-year old Rona, feels her life is frozen. But Lavery is never simplistic. Nancy acquires a new confidence as speaker for an organisation helping parents of missing children. And her older daughter, Ingrid, seen only through her mother’s words, grows from stroppy child to self-indulging teenage layabout, before travelling into the South Asian heat, which brings her both physical and mental self-discipline and a philosophy that encourages her mother to go beyond revenge.
It’s in Nancy’s visit to Ralph that the melting in his psyche begins. It’s hard for a character conditioned to expect toughness – he flinches violently from a female hand, his body is ever-restless. In the end it’s too much and proves a fatal thaw.
Mark Rose achieves a terrible intensity. His arms fold defensively across his front, his forceful obscenities aimed at anyone who comes near are partnered by a vocal fullness and enthusiasm suggesting that his views and feelings are right, but also that he needs to go on proving to himself that is so. He’s like ice able to sense it would be destroyed by warmth.
Later scenes relying on objects – photographs, writing-paper – are restricted by the minimal staging. But Brown clearly delineates the complex strands of this rich drama.
Agnetha: Helen Schlesinger.
Nancy: Sally Grey.
Ralph: Mark Rose.
Guard: Liam Tims.
Voice of Doctor Nabkus: Paul Janka.
Director: Ian Brown.
Designer/Costume: Jason Southgate.
Lighting: Charlie Lucas.
Sound: Gareth McLeod.