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Sage Theatre tackles child loss in Frozen

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The loss of a child is heart breaking. It's traumatic and painful and the after effects lead to a state of pain and remorse-- a frozen portrait of loss.

In Bryony Lavery's Frozen, opening at the Pumphouse Theatre on Feb. 26, Nancy must eventually confront the killer of her little girl, a demented pedophile named Ralph.

At the same time, Agnathea, a New York psychiatrist, holds her own radical ideas about these serial killers. She doesn't see them as monsters, but troubled, sick men. Valerie Planche, who plays Agnathea, can identify with her character's more relativistic viewpoint.

"The world is not so black and white," Planche explains. "People are screwed up. We don't like to make allowances for something that is out of the normal. I've been reading in the paper that people have been doing gene discoveries and realizing that abuse during childhood creates markers that show that abuse affects personality."

Planche says that she understands the sadness and grief that Nancy experiences, but notes that we shouldn't just focus in on that sorrow. We should spread our gaze outward to more social issues.

"I have compassion for the loss of the mother over her child-- that's a huge thing," says Planche. "We need to look past the loss of the child. It's really easy to empathize with someone who's lost a child. The big question is how do we get beyond that and look at actions and deeds in a really clinical way so we can understand human behaviour."

Duncan Ollerenshaw, who plays the child-killer Ralph, portrays the character not as a slavering evildoer, but as a man who just doesn't understand. He explains his character is representative of that paradigm of murderer-as-mentally-ill.

"He has some frontal lobe disorders," says Ollerenshaw. "He has some ticks and odd behaviours. He has troubles with saying yes and no-- his head will make the head motion to say no when he says yes. He has problems with the idea of right and wrong, yes and no."

As the protagonist explores her own sorrow and grief over the loss of her child, this production's Nancy, Shauna Baird, finds herself worried about her children. Flown in from Paris for the production, she finds herself more able to get into the headspace of the character as she worries about her children in Europe.

"I have left my family in France," says Baird. "I've found myself getting very anxious for my children, who I'm not at home with. It's a difficult place to be in for a mother at any time."

For a mother who finds herself worrying about her daughters back home, Baird found acting the role of a grieving mother very tough.

"It's a very dark place to go every night," she says. "Because Nancy reaches a place of forgiveness, it's ultimately a cathartic play."

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