Trafalgar Studio 2 (venue)
08 March 2019 (released)
08 March 2019
A Hundred Words for Snow, by playwright Tatty Hennessy, is a happy combination of performance with a clear and intense focus which manages at the same time to retain a lightness and fluidity which moves it along easily and successfully between dark and light, between humour and pathos. There is an equally successful choice in the setting of the production which becomes a metaphor for the issues being explored here – the exotic allure of the North Pole with all its historically associated ideas of challenge and dangerous exploration and the questioning of what this kind of heroic endeavour means as a metaphor for living life.
The exploration of these issues comes to the mind of the young girl at the heart of the play, Rory, very engagingly and buoyantly embodied in Gemma Barnett, who suddenly loses her father, a geography teacher and dreamer of all things Arctic. Rory wants to make that dream that he has shared with her all her life come true for him after his death and defiantly decides to take his ashes to the North Pole and it is that landscape which drives the narrative and dominates the reflections in the play. The play has a broader context, given the age of its protagonist. It is a sort of coming of age play for an adolescent girl, in terms of her relation to the death of her father, her attitude and understanding of her mother and all other elements in this crucial stage at the start of her adult life. It’s a great context and metaphor for much of what happens in life – the promise of excitement and adventure and challenge in a landscape of vastness and bleakness and incomprehensibility, fascinating, beautiful and terrifying all at once.
This consideration of adolescent trauma and self-understanding is managed through a light, witty, fast-paced one-woman monologue (this is a performance that runs non-stop for just over an hour). Apart from the witty and quick moving dialogue, the successful use of the Arctic premise as the driving force for the narrative make this a thoughtful and worthwhile theatrical exploration. The small cosines of the Trafalgar Studio, and the minimalist setting and subtle sound effects keep the focus on the vivid, breathless performance of Gemma Barnett. It is an enjoyable, non-stop trek to the North Pole and a successful return back.