Thaw

Mon 20th – Sat 25th August 2018

reviews

Thomas Pymer

at 21:42 on 23rd Aug 2018

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Regardless of the era of drama, the theme of ageing and the past always seems to fascinate actors. In ‘Thaw’ a beautiful and intricate story is constructed around the character of Laura, a woman who, in her eighties, is showing signs of dementia, while at the same time telling the story of her last summer with her best friend Evelyn way back in her childhood.

‘Thaw’ wove together scenes from Laura’s past in the 1940s and her present in the modern world. The scenes kept jumping, with the last line of one scene forming the first line of the next, which was a very clever idea and came off nicely. The plot was revealed slowly, a bit at a time, which was a wonderfully effective way of doing it as it kept the audience interested in what was going on.

The characterisation was truly remarkable. The actress playing the older Laura is especially to be commended; she spoke and acted exactly how one would imagine a lady in Laura’s position would have, portraying perfectly little slips of memory and delivering the exceptional line “I think I’d remember if I started forgetting things”. The portrayal of paranoia and fear by her, along with a denial of her condition, was exceptional, as was the actor playing her son Henry, who was excellent. There was no character who was not both believable and highly sympathetic. It was possible to feel sorry for both Henry and his worry and Laura and her fear of a loss of independence.

The same is true of the younger Laura and Evelin, who had all the little tricks and dynamics between them that are expected of best friends. Their multiple little adventures slowly built up to explain all kind of things which happened in Laura’s future and which came to make more sense, and they were all adventures and events which one could definitely imagine existing.

There was one minor slip-up in the plot which holds me back from marking this as flawless. I won’t reveal it since it is a pretty major turning point, but it felt vaguely anticlimactic and unbelievable, and it was almost definitely a device that has been used in multiple girl's coming-of-age stories before. Although the plot had been building up to something like this, it was still something of a let-down, although it did not spoil my overall enjoyment.

There were some genuinely heartfelt monologues and scenes. One in which Henry told the story of a trip to London when the first signs of dementia started emerging, was especially powerful and portrayed perfectly the worried son. A speech given by all four characters in rotating order at the end had me blinking hard to keep back tears.

In conclusion, ‘Thaw’ was moving, well-acted and all too true to life. With its relevance and emotional intensity, there’s only one thing that can be said: well done.

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Lauren James

at 09:39 on 24th Aug 2018

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The University of St Andrews’ Mermaids production of ‘Thaw’ has the capacity to move and the potential to provoke, tackling themes such as age, nostalgia and regret. Sadly, it is a victim of the actors’ lukewarm delivery, leaving the audience no more touched than when they arrived.

This said, one of the strengths of the performance was the ease with which the characters switched between past and present, exchanging props between or continuing lines across the two time-frames.

Spanning generations, ‘Thaw’ recounts the story of Laura, both when she is coming of age and later when we find her in a retirement home - her life coming to an end. Suffering from dementia, Laura attempts to reflect on her most vivid memories which centre on her life in a sleepy Yorkshire village, working on a farm. Her only solace is her friend, Evelin. However, the portrayal of the friendship was inauthentic and nervous. For example, we are unconvinced that this is sufficient foundation for Evelin to abandon her family in order to stay with Laura. Ultimately, this unwillingness to explore the relationship’s dynamics further was the undoing of the play.

Despite this, the script in itself is clever and powerful, masking wit with deeper poignancy. The older Laura, for example, dismisses the retirement home as ‘Alcatraz for the over 80s’ and we laugh to avoid the statement’s bleak reality. Another memorable scene was when Laura’s son recounts the first episode in which his mother’s dementia became apparent. The set’s simplicity helped to focus us on dementia’s destructiveness as we learn that Laura can no longer remember his name, referring to him as her dead husband.

Snatches of excellence such as this were welcomed, but were few and far between. Unfortunately, the quality of the play’s script was let down by weak acting. Endearing and sweet as ‘Thaw’ might be, it is not the hard-hitting drama which we expect.

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