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BWW Review: SNOWFLAKES, Old Red Lion Theatre


The central theme is strong but it’s frustratingly full of unrealised potential.

BWW Review: SNOWFLAKES, Old Red Lion Theatre

BWW Review: SNOWFLAKES, Old Red Lion Theatre Many plays have been pushed back by the pandemic. For some, their delay is an honest shame. For others... well... even more time might not have saved them. Dissident Theatre's snazzy debuting run of Snowflakes is now playing at the Old Red Lion Theatre after its original 2020 cancellation.

Written by Robert Boulton (who also stars in it) and directed by Michael Cottrell, there's a great play hiding under all the fluff. Marcus (Boulton) and Sarah (Niamh Finlay) show up at Tony's hotel room. Their supporters want the man (Henry Davis) to suffer and die for what he did to a girl in his youth. The duo is there to make this happen.

The premise is an intriguing one. Sarah and Marcus are hired guns that take care of rapists and the likes. He's been with the company for most of his adult life, his skills and dedication to the cause making him something of a poster child, while this is her first job on the field, having just moved up from their offices. Cool stuff.

A verbose first act with very little character progression precedes the real meat of the show, but even that ends up being muddled. Details about their industry seep through their conversations, but the foundations of their universe where all this happens are never properly established.

Marcus and Sarah sound like sociopaths, which is excellent since they're contract killers who target abuse and injustice. But how does that work? We know they have patrons who watch their streamed "interviews" with their subjects (who rarely make it out of the room), but we aren't given any hints as to the repercussions or outcomes of their jobs.

Rather than building the world his characters inhabit, the writer has a propensity to have them say grand speeches on virtue and how bad millennials are instead of focusing on the inner gears of their area of interest. Sardonic jokes and sexual innuendos are used to describe the torturing and killing of abusers, but it all feels like flashy dressing and not a commentary on the desensitisation to violence and desire to take action.

The second act is where the party's at. Tony is now tied to a chair with a black hood over his head, and they're preparing to stream. The snuff-film vibe might be bland, but Boulton finally tackles - albeit from an angle - the core theme: the lack of nuance and danger of trials by media. Boulton is onto something when he says that certain crimes can't be redeemed and asks the right questions after all.

Regrettably, the dialogue falls into unnaturalness and the language is slightly too flourished to fit the situation. The play also goes off on a few unnecessary (if not completely out of place) tangents here and there, at one point attempting to address capitalism and the depth of millennial evilness.

The two-hours-plus-interval-when-there's-no-need-for-one could deal with some dramaturgical reshaping, a few cuts would make it snappier without making its character exposition suffer at all. Cottrell's direction is smoky (really, what's with all the unexplainable smoke everywhere?) but it works in its stillness and composure against the media circus.

Boulton's Marcus is a banter-fuelled sadist, deranged laughs and peace signs thrown up to the camera post-torture included in the deal, while Finlay's approach to Sarah keeps changing throughout with a blindsiding performance. Davis has somewhat of a weak start due to the material, but he recovers towards the end when his one-dimensional performance finally breaks free from the ties of flatness.

Snowflakes is a complicated piece of theatre, but it's frustratingly full of unrealised potential. The central theme is strong, as are most of Boulton's views and opinions (bar Tony's tirade against millennials that twists into a defence and argues with itself that doesn't belong in this play at all) so Snowflakes can become a poignant play with an extremely entertaining factor. But let's retire that smoke machine in any case.

Snowflakes runs at the Old Red Lion Theatre until 16 October.

Photo credit: Charles Flint Photography

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