Two into one goes perfectly

Signs of the times: Hazel Maycock, Mike Hugo, Neil Fox-Roberts and Jean St Clair. Pictures: Alison Baskerville

Frozen

Birmingham Rep Studio

*****

A UNIQUE and thoroughly exciting theatrical experience like none that I have seen before, Frozen by Bryony Lavery co-produced by the Rep and Fingersmiths definitely took us on a roller-coaster ride of emotion on its opening night.

On its own, Lavery’s gripping play holds a gripping power, overwhelming us with anger, heartbreak, elation and yearning to name some of the few emotions we face on this chilling journey.

But what makes this play totally distinctive and mind-altering is that Fingersmiths are no usual company.  First the majority of this company are deaf and all are fluent in sign language.  This company aims to tackle challenging and sharp topics using a physical approach with an empathetic sincerity paired with an educational display of British Sign Language.

Fingersmiths have turned Lavery’s cut-throat three man play and doubled the cast, in which each character has a double, one communicating via sign language and the other through spoken word.

In the play, we are presented with the lives of three different and complex characters. Agnetha, endearingly played by Sophie Stone and Deepa Shastri, is an American psychologist who gives us an insight to the core of Lavery’s topic; are there sins of ‘forgivable acts’?

Stone and Shastri give the voice of the playwright great credit, delivering unbelievable precision to the physicality of the Agnetha and that allows for a deep communication to develop, both with the audience and other characters as the actors slowly reveal the tenderness and complexity of Agnetha with beautiful empathy.

Mike Hugo as Ralph and Sophie Stone as Agnetha

The character of Ralph played by the brilliant Mike Hugo and Neil Fox-Roberts is the most complex and indeed harrowing of the three. His journey does not make for easy viewing but we are in safe hands with these exceptional actors. It is hard not to avert your eyes at their magician-like craftsmanship of their art.

Finally, heart-breaking Nancy is given a tragic and profound characterisation by Hazel Maycock and the particularly talented Jean St. Clair will challenge anyone not to shed a tear.

Director Jeni Draper certainly used the double cast to an effective advantage. Having two actors play one role allows the audience to look deeper into the poignant minds of the trio.

Each ‘pair’ envisions an obviously tight bond with their communicative counter-part, which adds to the dramatic effect of the play. Instead of being an interpreter for one another, each actor playing the same role endearingly entwine and bounce off each other in a tight club of two, particularly during mesmerising moments of intensity and emotion.

Each actor looks to their twin for solace and support, making the emotionally gripping story even more prevalent.

Frozen is a chilling and emotionally-gripping play by itself, but by the magic of fingersmiths, they have truly tailored this production in order for it to become mind-altering. Performed in British Sign Language and spoken English. To 15-02-14.

Elizabeth Halpin 

Following the performance on 12 February there will be an After Dark discussion in which director, Jeni Draper and the cast members will discuss the development and making of Frozen and The Fingersmiths’ unique visual and physical approach to creating theatre and attracting new audiences to the classics of twentieth and twenty first century theatre.

Following the performance on 14 February there will be an After Dark discussion in which Dr Sally Austen, Consultant Clinical Psychologist will lead an open discussion on “overstepping the mark“, examining moments where we all find ourselves vulnerable or may make others feel vulnerable. Information on local support resources will be available 

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