Review: Fridge by Emma Zadow (2021)

Fridge by Emma Zadow

Blurb

Alice hasn’t been home for a while – for seven years, in fact. But when her little sister Lo tries to take her own life, she has to return to the life she left behind. The change of scenery from London to Norfolk proves quite the culture shock, however, and Alice has to confront what she left behind all those years ago.

The sisters’ relationship hasn’t evolved in Alice’s absence, and when she steps through the door she’s plunged back into the same world she escaped from. Set against Norfolk’s bleak landscapes, but masquerading as childhood nostalgia, Fridge is an all-too-familiar exploration of the broken promises of youth, and a bitter exposition of a generation left behind.

Review

First of all, huge thanks to Will at Renard Press for reaching out and inviting me on the blog tour for Fridge, and for sending me a copy of the play in exchange for an honest review. I think this might be the first playscript I’ve reviewed on my blog, which is exciting!

One of the things I enjoyed most about reading Fridge is how clearly it shows the power of theatre. So little is needed – three characters, a fridge (yes, it is literally there onstage throughout) and the magic of language. The stripped-back feel of this book give a raw, intense impression – emotions are compressed into a few lines or actions, years of bitterness and resentment explode in a single moment. It is compelling to watch the layers of past hurts get peeled back as the sisters pad around each other like snarling cats – even on the page, you can feel the energy crackle as Alice and Lo face off against each other.

Charlie is altogether a calmer presence, a mediator between the two, though he is also a source of conflict between the sisters. I grew fond of him very quickly – his soft, Norfolk-accented voice leavens the clashes between Lo and Alice, and his tender care of the animals he looks after provides a strong sense of connection to the rural land surrounding the characters. The scene where he and Alice reminisce about past exploits is beautifully written, and representative of the way in which Zadow perfectly captures the nostalgia that hangs in the air when we meet old friends, the memories that bind us together no matter how far our paths have diverged.

Lo is a fascinating character, and her mental health struggles are devastatingly portrayed and related. I was impressed by just how complicated the three protagonists and their relationships are – in a small amount of time, we see so many sides, and it feels piercingly accurate. Zadow has a real gift with language – the dialogue slips between prosaic and poetic and the weight of the meaning behind the words adds so much to this tautly written piece.

Reading this script is a wonderfully active experience – I felt fully engaged, imagining the scenes unfolding on a stage in front of me, picturing the blue-lit fridge in the middle of the stage, the howl of the wind and the clink of the milkshake bottles. I would love to see this play performed. And of course, any play that mentions David Attenborough is an absolute winner in my book!

I think Fridge would appeal to the many of us who have missed the theatre, as it conjures up so vividly that experience of giving yourself over to a creative vision you could never have anticipated or expected, the risks and experiments that theatre can take, the way a single line or action can be so loaded with meaning. Every word of this script, from stage directions to dialogue, does so much heavy lifting, so that, for a slim volume, the emotional resonance is huge. I am very grateful to have had the chance to discover this talented playwright.

About the Author

Emma Zadow is an actor, playwright and screenwriter from Norfolk whose screenplays include the hit short film The Cromer Special. Emma now lives in London.

Fridge by Emma Zadow is published by Renard Press and is available to purchase here.

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