by Romy Foster
As funky European folk music fills the air, actors buzz about the auditorium during the audience incoming, handing out vodka shots to the audience. Everyone is excited and the atmosphere is electric, setting us up for a feel-good show. Actually, My Love Lays Frozen In The Ice follows Mathilde (Jodie Davey) and her heart-breaking tale of how her finance, brother and friend died many years ago in a tragic accident.
Somewhat based on true events, we meet Salomon Andree (Sam Buitekant), Mathilde’s eccentric brother. He is an inventor and explorer keen on travelling to the North Pole in a hydrogen balloon. He recruits his best friend Nils Strindberg (James Parker) to help him with his plans, but he ends up falling in love with Mathilde. The three of them work tirelessly until the project is complete and the day to set sail arrives. As she is a woman, poor Mathilde is booted off the exhibition (it is 1897 after all) and replaced by an overexcited Knut Frankel (Jordan Lee). Not quite knowing what he’s doing, Frankel lets go of the ropes and with no way of steering the balloon, they crash land and have to fend for themselves at the North Pole.
What occurs next is depicted through detailed scenes of intense, physical theatre as the characters battle against gale force snowy winds, frozen lakes and encounters with a polar bear as they try to reach safety. The stage is blanketed in a snowy sheet, which the actors manipulate by swinging, draping and wafting to create various different locations in the Arctic.
Now, nobody can survive 33 years in the North Pole and live to tell the tale, but Mathilde believes otherwise. She has been driven mad with grief for her beloved family and is completely unaware that they are long gone. She has to relive the experience all over again as she is paraded in front of a panel of scientists at a university’s study on mental health.
The talent and visual effects are stunning, and the use of clowning, singing and live music effectively provide comic relief from the raw and gut-wrenching moments. Director Kasia Zaremba-Byrne says the story is about what it means to love, how that love shows itself and how the unexplained power of the heart and mind play tricks on us, and she is absolutely right.
My Love Lies Frozen In The Ice runs through 19 October.
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