Review: Cold, London International Mime Festival (online)

Now in its 46th year, the London International Mime Festival celebrates contemporary visual performances and features a variety of shows including mime, puppetry and dance. After being forced online last year due to the pandemic, normality has resumed with in-person performances, however there are still digital productions available for anyone who would rather watch from the comfort of their home. One of the impressive online productions available is Cold, a compelling production which explores pregnancy and loss.

Open Sky’s theatre-inspired feature length film is a dark fairytale following a pregnant couple fighting for survival. Cold is based on the real-life experiences of Claire Coaché and Lisle Turner, along with testimonies from other bereaved parents, and is a disturbing and heart-wrenching tale.

The story begins with a couple in a hospital room ahead of an antenatal appointment. As they wait nervously for news, the man tells his partner a story, a fairytale about a woodcutter Ulf and his partner Falda who take shelter in a cabin in the woods. But as the bleak winter sets in and Falda’s pregnancy progresses they soon discover a beast lurking in the forest, ready to pounce. When the invisible beast attacks Falda and she becomes infected, the couple have an agonising decision to make.

From the moment Ulf and Falda enter the woods they are rendered speechless – each time they try to utter words they instead bring up blood. It’s a powerful and effective development – their inability to speak resembling a couple’s difficulty in communicating following a devastating loss, while blood is a symbol of life and death, a sign of the loss the couple are experiencing.

Claire Coaché and Lisle Turner have created a engaging production, which offers a sensitive and powerful look at miscarriage and loss. Cold is not your typical fairytale and isn’t for the faint-hearted, it doesn’t shy away from the devastating reality of loss and it’s all the more powerful for it. The silence between the characters works incredibly well as it lets the emotion take centre stage. Although the pair are unable to speak, their pain and heartache is all to evident to see.

Cold was filmed with just one camera at the Courtyard Theatre in Hereford, though you wouldn’t believe it given how realistic it appears. The production makes great use of music and lighting to help tell the story in the absence of dialogue. The darker moments helping to build tension and fear as the beast lurks within the woods, while in contrast the soft lighting choices which are used inside the cabin help to stir emotion as the couple experience more tender moments. Likewise Johnny Pilcher’s beautiful score also helps to build the tension and emotion throughout.

Janet Etuk and Jacob Meadows both give powerful performances as the couple, both grieving in their own way, Falda curling up inside the cabin, Ulf raging and howling out in the forest.

Supported by Fertility Fest, Antenatal Results and Choices (ARC) and The Miscarriage Association, Cold is a compassionate film which deals with a difficult topic sensitively and captures the raw emotion that comes with grief. And, although there isn’t a Disney-like happy ending, there is a glimmer of hope as the sun begins to rise. Powerful, hard-hitting and incredibly moving, Cold is not an easy watch but it is essential viewing and does an important job of tackling the stigma behind miscarriage and baby loss.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Cold is available to view online until 6 February.

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