The CUADC freshers’ show Frozen opens next week and we caught up with the directors, Peter Price and Bali Birch-Lee, to find out more.
For those who aren’t familiar with the play, could you give us a brief synopsis?
Peter: Frozen is about a serial killer who abducts, rapes, and murders small children; a mother who has lost a child; and a psychiatrist who is writing a thesis on the nature of the criminal mind and free-will.
What have you found particularly challenging about directing this show?
Peter: The script is a series of monologues and short dialogues – it has been interesting to work on keeping this flowing and the audience engaged.
Bali: This is our first foray into the incredibly short turn-around time that the Cambridge theatre scene involves; this obviously presents difficulties in itself. We have also had the added challenge of adapting the show to Corpus Playroom, which is a very unique space in terms of its shape.
Peter: But probably the most difficult thing has been dealing with mental health issues in a way, which creates effective drama but doesn’t create caricature.
How have you adapted Bryony Lavery’s show to make it a unique performance?
Peter: Lavery provides an extensive prop list, but we have stripped back the play to remove any kind of prop or scene change. We are focusing on the intensity of the performance, and exploring the narratives in a very psychological manner rather than affecting any kind of naturalism.
Bali: We have also removed the sound effects, our aim was to make the entire play bare, working with the words of the script alone. The text treads a thin line between stylized performance and actualism, in that inevitably a series of monologues comes across as either forced naturalism or as stylized.
Peter: Essentially we wanted to prevent Frozen from being social realism.
The play features a lot of hard-hitting issues, how will you ensure that these are dealt with sensitively?
Bali: I think casting was a key factor here; we wanted to rule out any tendencies to over-act early on. The focus is on the nuances of mental health issues, entirely avoiding any kind of offensive ‘crazy’ stereotype.
Peter: It is a provocative play, and we aren’t afraid of that. We aren’t cutting anything that would soften the impact that it has.
Bali: For instance, there are times where you are disgusted by the character of Ralph. However it is important to show both sides of the story.
Would you say that Frozen is quite controversial for a freshers’ play?
Bali: People often underestimate other people’s ability to cope with these kind of controversial issues sensitively. You don’t necessarily have to have experienced things to understand them.
Peter: I think it shows an extraordinary respect for the freshers that we were given the opportunity to put on a play which has such potential to cross the line into being offensive. It is stretching both the actors and the directors to our absolute limits.
Frozen is running Tuesday 17 – Saturday 21 November at the Corpus Playroom.