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“Frozen” by Pangdemonium

November 1, 2014
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Frozen1-1(picture courtesy of Pangdemonium!)

Event: “Frozen” presented by Pangdemonium
Venue: Esplanade Theatre Studio
Run: 23rd Oct – 9th Nov 2014

Cold Cold Heart, Hard Done By You

Pangdemonium’s final production of the highly-memorable 2014 season (themed “Misfits”) sees them staging what is definitely the darkest and most hard-hitting of the three shows this year.

Don’t let the title fool you – this has absolutely nothing to do with the Disney film featuring Elsa and bunch.

“Frozen” is a play written by Bryony Lavery which was nominated for nominated for a Tony Award for Best Play in 2004, and tells the story of paedophile and murderer Ralph (played by Adrian Pang) and how he lures away and eventually murders the 10-year-old daughter of Nancy (played by Karen Tan).

It chronicles the emotional journey of Nancy over a few decades, and how she eventually comes to terms with the ghastly ordeal, having not known the grisly outcome of her daughter until many years later when Ralph is finally caught.

The third significant character in the play is Agnetha (Janice Koh), who plays the New York psychiatrist who takes a particular interest in examining the psychology of a murderer such as Ralph, hoping to shed light on whether there are any redemptive qualities in such a person (if at all), or whether his deeds were either biologically-driven, or the result of particularly traumatic experiences growing up.

The play itself comprises mainly of monologue scenes where the actor speaks mainly to the audience, although there are scenes where two characters speak directly with each other as well.

The set in the Esplanade Theatre Studio space (designed by Eucien Chia) is delineated into roughly three segments, probably to reflect the particular emotional space in which each character mainly inhibits.

It is in the later parts of the play where we see characters crossing over into each other’s space, the most dramatic and climactic of which is when Nancy eventually visits the prison facility to have a one-to-one meeting with Ralph.

Ralph’s character is a complex one – a seemingly confused character full of awkward and sometimes violent ticks, swinging from one end of the emotional pendulum to the next.

At times he comes across as a complete monster, incapable of empathy and totally underserving of any form of redemption, and at times you wonder if he is just an unfortunate product of a tragically harsh upbringing, having a human heart just like anyone else, trapped deep inside that whole mess.

If there was one actor who could even attempt to take on the role of Ralph, then Adrian Pang is definitely it.

His tortured and nuanced portrayal of Ralph is what holds the entire play together, and if this does not win him a Best Actor award at next year’s Life! Theatre Awards, then you’d have to wonder what it actually takes to win one.

“Frozen” is a chilling and sobering tale, and it’s hard to walk out of the Esplanade Theatre Studio without feeling at least a bit disturbed by the depths to which the human heart can plunge to.

While it’s hard to call this being left on a “high” note, we can safely say that Pangdemonium has ended the 2014 with a well-executed play that both deeply disturbs and is once again a grim reminder of the power of theatre to ask the most difficult of life’s questions.

On to 2015!

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