Described by The Guardian as “a Comedy of Terrors… a big, brave, compassionate play about grief, revenge, forgiveness and bearing the unbearable”, theatre company Pangdemonium’s Frozen written by Bryony Lavery is about how three individuals who are drawn together by horrific circumstances, find themselves uncovering one another’s dark secrets in their journey before finding the light. The play has won the prestigious Barclay Award for Best New Play and was also nominated for 4 Tony Awards, including Best Play.
Karen Tan plays Nancy, who goes in to depression for twenty years after her 10-year-old daughter Rhona goes missing. Ralph, a serial-killer who has a deadly obsession with children, will be played by the ever versatile actor, Adrian Pang. Janice Koh rounds up the main cast as Agnetha, a psychiatrist who specializes in studying serial killers, but has dark secrets on her own.
We were delighted to sit down with Adrian and Janice to talk about how they prepared for their roles in Pangdemonium’s Frozen and what they have learnt so far in their preparation.
Popspoken: Adrian, give us a background about your character and describe how are you preparing for it.
Adrian: My character is based on a real person, a child killer called Robert Black, who was arrested years ago. Till this day, they are still finding out about the atrocities that he did. He has been in prison for over 20 years and just in June this year, the police uncovered evidence linking him to a disappearance of a girl who has never been found. He is probably one of Britain’s most notorious killer.
I have been reading a book about the interviews conducted by Robert’s probation officer on him and to be honest, it’s very very disturbing. He is obviously a deeply messed up individual who is very conflicted about right and wrong. He even tries to justify his actions. It takes quite a little bit of time to figure out what is he actually saying, why is he saying this.
Popspoken: Do you feel very disturbed as an actor after doing your research?
Adrian: Yes. I have went to pretty dark places before in my previous plays, but this is a whole different thing. Perhaps going even further than I imagined that I would need to. I have grieved over a child who died in a accident when I played husband and wife with Janice before, but in this case, what happened is a nightmare to every parents, including myself because I have two kids on my own.
Being the person responsible for every parents’ nightmare is quite new and I find it quite upsetting even reading about Robert’s actions. I also found out in my research about pedophelia that the child actually knows his or her abuser. Sadly, pedophelia does exist in Singapore. However, because we live in a very safe environment here, we seldom hear of such cases where children get abused.
Popspoken: What about you, Janice? What have you learned so far in preparation for your role?
Adrian: To some degree, I think that it’s quite a scary role and a scary work to attempt. It’s also a very physically demanding play. Contrary to the other roles that I have played, where you approach the character through logic, and try to understand why they do what they do, I think for me this role is very guttural and very physical. You simply can’t understand why they do what they did.
Popspoken: What do both of you want the audience to take away from Pangdemonium’s Frozen?
Janice: That we can’t make sense of everything. We like to think that we live in a moral universe, and there’s black and white, right and wrong. That’s how we make sense of the world and tragedy. In reality, what we are confronted with is a amoral universe. At the end of the day, we are all individuals living in a universe and where we can only attempt to make sense. But the truth is, it is senseless. The audience will desire to reason why it happened and reason the outcome. There is comfort in knowing why it turned out this way. That can be quite difficult to accept.
We see on a day to day basis the way we process tragedies. Like when planes fall out of the sky and there is a thousand and one theories floating around because people want and need to know the reason why. What is unfathomable to most of us is that there is absolutely no reason for it.
Adrian: Exactly. Our existence is very fragile. The human psyche is very fragile. We want cause and effect, reward or retribution. We want to compartmentalize our actions and choices in order that there is a balance in the universe.
Janice: Yes, that is the only way to live with each other otherwise there is chaos. But the truth is sometimes, once in awhile, a play comes along and says there is no answer to everything and it is chaotic. It will sort of make you comfortable for awhile, but this play will confront you with the atrocities that you can’t make sense of.
Lastly, why should people come to watch this play?
Janice: To get your mind blown, I think (laughs)
Adrian: For a good sing-a-long (laughs)
Adrian: On a serious note, for us to choose to tell a story like that, it’s not merely for an entertaining night out at the theatre. I can’t say please come and see this, you will really enjoy yourself. Because it’s not that kind of a story. It just isn’t. The plain honest truth is that I hope people will be brave enough to come to engage and embrace the story because it is a story that I hope will affect people in a visceral, emotional way.
I dare say we have been cultivating a growing audience who are ready and hungry to go to the theatre to be affected that way, to be provoked.
For more information or tickets to the show, click here.