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Glacier Lake

by on 4 May 2022

Icy Secrets

Glacier Lake

by Andrew Cartmel

Thursday Theatre at the OSO Arts Centre, Barnes until 8th May

Review by David Stephens

Described as a ‘thriller with hot topicality’, it was with a due sense of excitement and curiosity that we attended the premiere of Glacier Lake.  Searching for a little background information prior to attending, a quick scan of the internet revealed that, as its name suggests, this new play (written by Andrew Cartmel and directed by Conrad Blakemore) is set in the remote, lake-side escape of Otto (Colin Hill) and his daughter, Sandy (Sadie Pepperrell).  

Sadie Pepperrell as Sandy

Upon entering the intimate auditorium, the audience is greeted by a simple, un-curtained stage revealing a modest, modern set, comprising a sofa and coffee table at centre stage and, on the back wall, a painting of what is assumed to be the house itself, set in its remote and idyllic glacial surroundings.  Indeed, this thoughtfully positioned painting not only helps the audience to better imagine the location, but it is also used throughout the play to demonstrate the passage of time between scenes: the stage lights, shining directly upon it over the course of the play, change subtly from bright sunshine, through to dusky orange of late afternoon, and then into the darkness of night-time.  Almost serving as a cut to an external camera-shot of the cottage, this simple concept is cleverly conceived and highly effective, as are the sound effects and the music which accompanies the scene transitions.

Colin Hill as Otto

The play opens on a humorous telephone conversation between Otto and a garden landscaping company, during which we hear him complain about his recently-installed garden lights and their highly random nature.  From this call, he glances out of the cottage window (the fourth wall) and sees his daughter struggling in the nearby lake.  Panic-stricken, he runs outside to save her but, to his relief, discovers that she has been brought to safety by their visitor and family-friend, Daniel (Jamie Hutchins) who, we soon learn, is staying with them in order to lie low from some unsavoury characters.  During this early exchange, we also learn that Otto’s first-aid kit, complete with defibrillator, has gone missing and that Sandy has taken it to her bedroom in search of drugs!  In many plays of this genre, one becomes attuned to triggers, beats or plot-hints suggested throughout the early scenes, often helping to layer the mystery and intrigue, keeping the audience keen and interested.  Mental notes were, therefore, eagerly made of each of these points, with the expectation that their importance would soon become more apparent … disappointingly, however, they did not!  Whether they were meant as red-herrings or just to add some additional dialogue into the play, only the author can say, but one came to the eventual conclusion that they were probably just there to increase the play’s duration, but with no bearing or relevance.

Jamie Hutchins as Daniel

As the story unfolds, we learn that Otto and Daniel’s father were colleagues, both of whom had worked for a large oil producer and had been involved in falsely convincing the world that climate change was hoax.  Partly as a result of this, the world is in a terrible state and a group of vigilantes have formed to take their revenge on the children of those that were involved in the deceit (Daniel and Sandy among them).  It is an interesting and thought-provoking concept but, unfortunately, the script lacked the length and, therefore, the complexity and depth required to really do it justice.  Its dénouement lacked impact and believability and their actions seemed largely disproportionate to the revealed back-story.  That said, the play progressed at a reasonable pace and strong performances from each of the three actors kept the audience engaged throughout.   As a new-writings piece, it is certainly worth going to see and, with a few script amendments, could have all the makings of a truly enthralling thriller.  

David Stephens, May 2022

Photography by Tony Brewer and Sarah Jane Docker

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