Review: Fridge (Hope Theatre)

Emma Zadow’s new play, Fridge, is a three-hander set in 21st century rural Norfolk as two sisters and a schoolfriend reunite seven years after a catastrophic event.

Alice (played by Zadow) has been working away, keeping herself busy. She’s nervous, suspicious, behind a wall of her own making. Her childlike sister, Lo (Gabrielle De Saumarez), watches cartoons to escape from depression. She passes as so young you might expect her to walk in clutching a doll.

A fridge is her safe space, milkshakes her cocoon. She veers between vulnerable and vicious, lashing out or watching from the shadows. Her description of attempting to take her life is deeply stylised (and could be triggering for some, so be forewarned).

The only other character is Charlie (Edward Watchman), a schoolfriend of Alice’s, a farmer, a loner, and a crutch for Lo. It took a while to work out who he is and how he fits in to the puzzle; for me, he is the weaker link and the focus feels squarely on the sibling dynamic.

Video projections and sound distortions (by Thomas Wingfield and Rodrigo Pacheco) enhance the space and give the sense of a fractured mind, one which doesn’t quite remember or understand what is really happening. They also highlight the cartoons that cushion Lo, and give a sense of location.

Wherever we are in the narrative, the fridge dominates Erin Fleming’s set. It feels uncomfortable to us, tall and immovable. The lighting (by Gareth Morgan and Bethan Amey) often evokes the feel of water, of submerging, of drowning, of calm. At other times two large, bright lights dig into the soul of the trio we are following.

We are unclear how young Lo is – the playscript indicates Alice as late-20s, but there seems to be quite a gap between them. With their mother being more interested in a succession of boyfriends than looking out for her child, Alice has assumed a maternal role and then run out on it.

I liked the touches of humour dotted throughout Fridge, but be aware that it does deal realistically with mental instability. There are some interesting staging choices from director Anoushka Bonwick – especially on the farm – but the sound does have to deal with Upper Street’s busy evening traffic as some points.

Fridge is a heartfelt piece of drama with a magical realism frost. It marries the quiet and dull rural life with the noise and bustle of the urban, and looks at friendships and family conflicts in a way which feels unforced.

This 80-minute piece can be seen at the Hope Theatre until 2 April. Book your tickets here.