Just off Camden High Street, the tiny Etcetera Theatre played host this weekend to Blackout Creative Arts’ New Writing Weekend by showcasing a double bill of new plays. Fridge, by Rose Bruford alumnus Emma Zadow, offered a powerful and thought-provoking look at intricacies of memory, nostalgia and the tribulations of early adulthood.
Introduced as a meditation on childhood nostalgia, Fridge’s action unfolded to the sound of a live guitar (music composed by Phoebe Robinson), with minimal props and staging. This pared down approach, and the fact that it was a staged reading, gave the production the air of improvisation and made it feel fresh and spontaneous.
The opening of the play saw Alice (Sian Bennett) arriving back in her sleepy Norfolk village to visit her troubled younger sister Lois (Therica Wilson-Read) in the wake of her latest suicide attempt. Along the way she meets Charlie (Leo Garrick), a childhood friend, who brings up forgotten memories and buried feelings catalysing a crisis over her place in a world she has largely left behind. This completes the show’s cast, although the play refers to a series of peripheral, often tellingly absent, which in many ways drive the narrative’s momentum.
Fridge lives up to its billing as a play of nostalgia, at least for a certain generation: it is littered with references to 90s pop culture (Walkmen, chokers and Jacqueline Wilson books, anyone?). Its darker sides are thoroughly probed as well, in particular the feeling, which I’m sure was familiar to the mainly millennial audience, that life doesn’t quite turn out as promised in Disney films. This was particular well expressed by Bennett as she navigated her way through a multiplicity of roles – sister, surrogate mother, absent friend- during a thoughtful and finely balanced performance.
This thematic thread was generally delicately brought into the action, but at certain points the exploration of nostalgia felt a little heavy handed and over worked, such as when Zadow has the characters overtly philosophise, which takes away from the natural rhythm that the play creates so successfully in other passages.
This mirrors a general tendency towards lyricism and the occasional overblown metaphor, which sometimes felt a little stilted among otherwise emotionally raw performances from the three cast members. However, by the play’s emotional crescendo the cast had well and truly captivated the audience, when the force of the writing and the cast’s clear connection with it, were clear. Wilson-Read’s performance is particular noteworthy towards the end of the production. Emotional scenes, which easily could have come across as histrionic, were instead perfectly pitched and emotionally affecting.
All in all, Fridge is an arresting piece of new drama which delivers a powerful emotional punch, often undercut by moments of bittersweet humour. Despite the briefest of runs in Camden, it deserves, and I’m sure will secure, a much wider audience.
Fridge played at Etcetera Theatre on 5 June as part of the New Writing Weekend. For more information, see Etcetera Theatre website..