Review by David Hennessy
Alison Spittle’s Glacier begins with a heart broken and primal scream from Emma Lau’s Lucy before she throws her wedding ring towards a lake. Unbeknownst to Lucy, Dawn (Debra Baker) is toweling herself off after a Christmas swim and the ring hits her on the back of the head.
This is the beginning of the friendship between Lucy, Dawn and Jools (Sophie Steer) who has also come to enjoy a swim- but it also sets the tone for how their words and actions have unintended, and often funny, knock on effects on the other people.
Lucy is clearly troubled and tells the two strangers her life has been a lie. Dawn is eager for more information, pregnant Jools doesn’t want to push for information.
This is their first encounter but not their last. The three women cross paths every Christmas over a roughly 15 year period and we get to know all three through their exchanges.
Lucy is a dedicated wife and mother, it was a revelation about her husband- but one which turns out to be a hilarious case of mistaken identity- that caused her to throw her ring away in the first place.
Jools has swum every day of her life and once had ambitions of making it to the Olympics. These ambitions went unfulfilled and she is not fulfilled by family life either, going so far as to admit she has to get away from her own family on Christmas which is why she lies in order to get away- just to go to the lake and swim. Dawn tells her it is a lot of lying and sneaking for no ‘shagging’.
Dawn is the loneliest of the three. Further along in life, she is alone due to her husband leaving her for another woman and then promptly dying leaving her responsible for funeral etc due to still being married in law.
Lucy- with Jools for back up- looks for her ring back from Dawn.
With her marriage problems resolved, Lucy learns the monetary and sentimental value of the ring she tossed away and hit Dawn with.
Dawn is acting evasive about giving it back when all three are shocked to discover a dead body in the lake.
Although it takes time- and there is some resentment about who leaves who to wait for police with the body- this is a bonding experience. The women discuss issues such as suicide which is not what they think the man in the lake committed but it turns out one of their ladies has had a very harrowing experience with it in her own life.
While Lucy and Jools quickly become friends from that first meeting, showing up at the second Christmas together. Dawn’s bond with either is more slow burning.
While the women grow together, there is tragedy in store before the end.
All three are perfectly cast.
Emma Lau, recognizable from Hollyoaks, charms as the innocent Lucy.
Debra Baker’s Dawn gets many of the biggest laughs with her flippant responses to things like Lucy’s marriage falling apart, or Jools telling lies to go swimming on Christmas Day.
Jools, played by Sophie Steer, reveals she hates Christmas food but may just hate Christmas. She doesn’t see the need to lie to her children about Santa Claus or cook the traditional Christmas dinner. She’s not completely happy in her family life but is also closed off with her emotions. Instead of telling Dawn she has come to think of her as a friend, she says, ‘I don’t actively hate you’. Lucy adds, ‘That’s the best you’ll get from her’.
Comedian Alison Spittle told us in our recent interview that the piece was written with the space in mind knowing a lot of transitions between scenes would not be possible.
The space is well used with a wooden pier becoming the stage. A chair and sound effects are used well to create the impression of swimming.
Hits of the day and news headlines set the scene and take us through the years.
Beginning in 2007 and coming up to the modern day, Obama, Brexit and Trump and many more tell us which year we are now in.
This is Alison Spittle’s second play and although she is well known as a comedian, it is one that connects with its heart as well as its humour.
Glacier is at The Old Fire Station in Oxford until 23 December.
For more information and tickets, click here.