Edinburgh Fringe 2019
My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice is a delightful tale of adventure, love and loss, and the power of the imagination.
Blending physical theatre, gorgeous stagecraft, clowning and puppetry, it is a visual feast.
The cast greet the audience as we arrive. There is a friendly banter, and we know we are in for a story. The introduction begins – some music, playfully and knowingly played on ukeleles, accordion and maracas. Our attention is grabbed.
Based on a true story, My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice tells of a balloon expedition to the North Pole undertaken by three courageous Swedes, and of the woman – Mathilde – they left behind.
It is a tale of two parts, with the character of Mathilde (played by Jodie Davey) forming the intersection. In one, Mathilde is in an asylum, apparently suffering from delusions about an expedition many years previously. She asks which part of a body freezes last. The rest of the cast play the doctors interested in her case; her psychosis. In the other, larger part, we see in flashback the events in Mathilde’s memory or imagination.
On the expedition are Mathilde’s brother Salomon (Sam Buitekant), her sweetheart Nils (Morrison Twigg) and her last-minute usurper in the balloon basket, Knut (Jordan Lim).
The tale (which I won’t spoil) is told with huge inventiveness, and a rapid succession of theatrical devices. Balloon silks are used to create snowscapes and seascapes, underwater scenes and clothing. At times it is achingly beautiful. There is some very clever puppetry and balloon work, some of this with audience involvement. There is a lot of laughter.
It isn’t clear quite how much of the story we see is real and how much imagined, but that is part of the joy of the piece.
The narrative romps along, and the number of clever devices might almost be overwhelming were it not for the charm and humanity of the performers; they are clearly loving their craft. They are well cast too – Buitekant embodies Salomon’s bravado; Twigg breathes Nil’s naive charm; Lim clowns as the fall guy (and closet opera singer); whilst Davey balances Mathilde’s vulnerability and righteousness.
David Hockham’s lighting is effective and subtle. Alongside the inevitable howling polar gales (accompanied by wind-rippled clothing) the sound design includes an interesting range of pop songs. Occasionally these took me a little out of the moment.
Alongside the laughter and a healthy dose of magic realism, this piece carries important subtexts around sexism at the turn of last century, and about the workings (and treatment) of the mind. There is a very surreal moment involving a Björk song and a polar bear, which seems to highlight Mathilde’s delusional state. It is a comic moment that throws her reality into stark relief.
The final scene is sublime – impossibly tragic and uplifting both at the same time.
My Love Lies Frozen in the Ice is tragicomedy at its most creative.
Runs until at 25th August at Pleasance Dome (not 19th)