Festival review: Thin Ice; Pleasance Courtyard (venue 33)

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Set circa 1940 against the backdrop of the North Atlantic weather war, Jonathan Young’s Thin Ice is a chillily gripping tale of conflicting loyalties and romantic intrigue that’s strong in every area – script, performances and staging.

But such a panoramic piece of straight period drama winds up banging its head against the restrictive boundaries of Fringe theatre, and feels like it might better suit development for television. Austrian professor Daniel Steinburg is a Cambridge boffin enslaved to cold reason in his obsessive study of glaciers, to his eventual frozen doom at a remote Arctic research outpost where he and hot-headedly passionate young anthropology student Richard had worked together, until the outbreak of war, with little fondness shared.

Caught between the two men is pretty meteorologist Laura, who after finding her love for Steinburg curiously unrequited, marries Richard on the rebound.

Despite being told in a deliberately disorientating back-and-forth fashion, the story unfolds with great pace and control, and there are some masterfully tense moments – the mock debate scene between Steinburg and Spencer for one.

Cracks develop in the plot and the ending proves unsatisfactory. But judging by the overall high standard of this play, it’s easy to imagine these shortcomings being ironed-out and the whole thing developed into something much bolder and better – either for on or off stage consumption – with more time and resources invested.

Rating: ***

Until 27 August. Today 11:45am