The play is a compelling examination of how the human mind deals with something so heinous — and it immediately struck a chord. Since the play opened at Birmingham Rep two decades ago, winning the Theatre Management Association best new play award in , there have been eight overseas productions. Photo: Tristram kenton If it all sounds like a seamless story of success, the reality was rather different. In September , not long after Frozen closed its hugely acclaimed production on Broadway, Lavery was accused of plagiarising a article in the New Yorker about the work of the noted psychiatrist Dorothy Lewis, author of Guilty by Reason of Insanity. It was a tumultuous time for the playwright.
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It is available in an edition published by Faber and Faber in There are three main characters, whose stories begin separately but then gradually converge. Agnetha, a psychiatrist from New York , presents evidence that violent criminals are brain damaged and not responsible for what they do.
Nancy, the mother of the victim, is eventually able to forgive the murderer, Ralph, who for his part finally learns to feel remorse. Frozen raises issues of great importance for criminal justice. Is the murderer evil or is his crime only the symptom of an illness? The play also explores the act of forgiveness. How can it be possible for a mother to forgive a man who has sexually molested and murdered her young daughter? With its powerful emotional impact, Frozen has been an international success.
In recent years it has been one of the most produced plays in the United States and has also been produced around the world in cities such as Dublin, Amsterdam, Madrid, and Paris. The play also became the subject of controversy when Lavery was accused of plagiarizing the work of an American psychiatrist, Dorothy Otnow Lewis, whose life and work closely resembled that of the character Agnetha in the play.
Her father was the principal of a nurse training college; her mother stayed at home raising their four children. In an interview with the Observer newspaper, Lavery described her childhood as "very happy and very poor.
She graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in She was especially concerned with writing plays that had prominent roles for women. Her play, Sharing, which she also directed, was produced in London in With a friend, Gerard Bell, Lavery then formed a collective group, Les Oeufs Malades, which performed her plays in small venues. During the s and s, Lavery was artistic director for a number of small theater groups in London, including Extraordinary Productions, Female Trouble, and Gay Sweatshop.
Lavery has written over fifty plays. Some of the most notable include Origin of the Species , Her Aching Heart , Kitchen Matters , More Light and Goliath , the latter a one-woman show in which the actress plays all the characters. In , she cowrote Peter Pan based on the book by J. Barrie , and played the role of Tinkerbell herself. When Frozen moved to Broadway in , it was nominated for a Tony Award. The play became controversial when Lavery was accused of plagiarizing some of her material from an article in the New Yorker about a psychiatrist who had studied serial killers.
Lavery has also written television and radio plays, and is the author of a biography of the actress Tallulah Bankhead. She taught play-writing at Birmingham University from to As she leaves she bursts into tears and screams into her carry-on bag. She recovers her composure and leaves for the airport. In scene 2, Nancy is at home in her back garden in the evening, nipping some buds off her flowers. Her monologue gives insight into her family situation.
It appears that her relationship with Bob, her husband, has become difficult. She has two daughters, Ingrid and Rhona, who are always quarreling. Nancy then let Ingrid go out somewhere else and told Rhona to take the shears to Grandma.
Rhona has not yet returned. In scene 3, Ralph washes his hands in the sink. He says it is one of those days when he just knows he is going to do it, although he does not specify what he means.
He then describes how he goes out in his van and tries to entice a young girl on the street to get in the van with him. He keeps cushions and a sleeping bag in the van, and it does not take him long to tempt the girl to step inside.
Rhona is still missing. Nancy says she has lost two stone twenty-eight pounds , and started smoking again. In scene 5, Ralph brings a suitcase into his room. He has been questioned by the police about an incident in Scotland, which he denies having anything to do with. The police found nothing incriminating in his room, but his landlady has asked him to leave anyway. He packs some pornographic videotapes involving children in his case.
He has all the titles written down in his notebook and is proud of the fact that the tapes cost a lot of money and he had to get them from abroad. On board the flight to England in scene 6, Agnetha works on her laptop, referring to the title of her academic thesis, "Serial Killing … a forgivable act?
David Nabkus. She cannot get the stewardess to bring her the brandy she thinks she needs. Scene 7 takes place four years later. Nancy believes Rhona is still alive.
Twenty years later scene 8 , Ralph sits on a bench. He has just had a tattoo of the Grim Reaper done on his ankle. He shows other tattoos, on his arms.
He remembers exactly where he got each tattoo, and how long it took the tattooist to do it. Then he sees a young girl somewhere and hears her laughing. He pays close attention and is obviously beginning to plan another abduction. In scene 9, three or four days later, Nancy is walking in the sun. She says that the police have arrested a man for an unsuccessful abduction, and they have found the remains of other children in the earth floor of a lock-up shed.
The man has named Rhona as one of the children. Nancy reflects that all the time she thought Rhona was alive, her daughter was actually buried in the shed. In his cell in scene 10, Ralph describes the way he was interrogated by police, who have tried to tie him to the areas in which the crimes were committed by questioning him about where he got each tattoo.
When he discovered they had found his shed and his collection of videos, he confessed to the crimes. This did not stop the police from threatening him with violence. In scene 11, Nancy reflects on the fact that the shed where Rhona was buried was close by. She has passed it many times. Her thoughts oppress her like a heavy weight. Agnetha addresses an academic audience in a large hall in London scene 12 , beginning to explain her research on the brains of criminals.
She has also examined Ralph, who is now serving a life sentence without parole for the murders of seven young girls over a period of twenty-one years. The scene switches to the prison, with Agnetha talking to Ralph, measuring the circumference of his head and doing various tests. After one test, in which she taps him on the bridge of the nose, his rapid blinking suggests that he has damage to the frontal lobe of the brain. The frontal lobes are part of the cortex and allow people to make rational judgments and adapt to the rules of everyday life.
In scene 13, Nancy is in her house, smoking. She is thinking that she would like to see Ralph die and watch him suffer like Rhona suffered. She has seen on a videotape showing that in America, the family of the victim is allowed to attend the execution of the criminal. She quotes an eighty-year-old grandmother whose grandson was murdered, as saying that she could forgive but not forget.
Nancy thinks that forgiveness must take guts. Her mother will not forgive the killer and neither will her husband. Nancy then reveals that Ingrid has decided to travel in Asia. Agnetha meets Ralph again in prison scene In scene 15, Nancy reports how she watched as the shed where the crimes were committed was razed to the ground.
She is grief-stricken and calls out for her daughters. Agnetha continues her examination of Ralph in scene 16, noting that he has a limp. She asks him where he got a scar on his forehead, and he gives two explanations, first that he fell off a roof when he was drunk, second, that he was in a car crash when he was sixteen. He also says he blacked out after falling down a mine shaft, and that his mother threw him into the sink when he was little.
Nancy hangs out her washing in the garden scene She has received postcards from Ingrid in Tibet, and gifts including prayer flags that, according to Ingrid, help to spread compassion. Nancy is not impressed. She cannot sleep and feels barely alive. She pegs out the flags and they wave in the wind. Ingrid returns.
Agnetha concludes her address in scene She explains research showing that toddlers who have been abused respond to a classmate in distress differently from children who have not been abused. They show no concern for the welfare of the distressed child but lash out with anger and physical assaults. To illustrate this, Agnetha and Ralph are shown together; she cries because her colleague David recently died, but he responds aggressively.
Agnetha continues her lecture by saying that severely abused children also suffer brain damage. Such brain damage means that they are unable to form strong connections with other human beings. When they return, Ingrid tells her she must let go of her anger, visit Ralph and forgive him.
Nancy says if she visited him, she would kill him. She cannot forgive.
Bryony Lavery - Frozen.pdf
Here, the 3 main characters are the mother of a murdered daughter, the serial killer who killed her, and the academic studying the killer for signs and clues about why he turned out as he did. Some great roles for actors to piece together and chew on. The scenes are either monologues or two handers. The dialogue is very British; would have to change some words to sound American. The dialogue is also very atmospheric - transports you to the place the characters go in their minds. You can feel how the characters are breathing, and sometimes struggling to breath The action of this play is centered around the abduction of a girl and three characters: a mom, a pedaphile, and an academic.
Bryony Lavery: ‘Age is a prime tool for any writer. You draw on the pain creatively’
Not to mention social jollies. This is because I know I am going to meet genial, enthusiastic folk whose appetite for theatre knows no bounds. To this enthusiasm The Bench adds, as well as a variety of talents, enormous energy and a willingness to work hard All these together provide a consistent level of performance across five or six productions each year which makes their work enjoyed and admired across the region. It is this diversity coupled with the preparedness to take on challenges which is the keynote of the company. The last few months demonstrate this beautifully.