For a man about to have his head removed and put in deep freeze Dennis Ockerby seems, well, rather chilled.
Wisecracking from his hospital bed, and playing to the gallery of TV cameras overhead, streaming this second chance of life to a wider world, he just has to contend with his wife Viv’s growing reservations.
If Debbie Oates’ stage play, finally premiered here after 12 years in gestation, was about that dramatic dilemma alone then it would be a notable achievement.
Her earlier work here though always goes deeper and further and so it is with The Ockerbys On Ice, drilling beneath the couple’s anguish into the ethics of scientific experimentation.
Almost in passing she manages much of it with great good humour.
The writer’s background in TV drama easily commands the central narrative between the Ockerbys but you might think the daughter of a scientist would have been a little more sympathetic in her approach to their cold-hearted physician.
With a name like Dr Devine she is clearly close to God-like status in the first place, and Lynsey Beauchamp plays her as a post-graduate student of Frankenstein. It is maybe a touch overdrawn but as a dramatic contrast to the roles of Dennis (David Crellin) and Viv (Karen Henthorn) it serves its purpose.
Two highly-experienced performers revel in roles that require him to slowly move from jester to tragedian, while she constantly wrings her hands, bites her lip and wrestles with the big questions of life and death. Behind it all is more heartbreak and a life which both would desperately prefer to revive.
For all its cold connotations The Ockerbys On Ice is a heart-warming love story with a playful and sometimes profound portrayal of a couple confronting life’s final frontier.
The Ockerbys on Ice runs until October 22 but deserves its own theatrical second life.
Review by David Upton.