Review - Snowflakes
Updated: Apr 19
Playing until 6th May 2023
Writer: Robert Boulton
Director: Michael Cottrell
Set and Costume Designer: Alys Whitehead
Photo credit: Jennifer Evans
Snowflakes brings the cancel culture and trial by online commentators to the forefront, in a society where such practices are considered normal. Marcus (Robert Boulton) and Sarah (Louise Hoare) are hired to pass judgement on Tony (Henry Davis), with the process broadcasted to the world as if it is a form of entertainment, and the fate of the one being judged rests upon the vote of the viewers.
The audience is welcomed by Tony, lying face down and unconscious on a bed as they enter the auditorium. This would have been an apt setting for a murder mystery, except Tony is merely passed out after a night out and quickly awakens as the play starts. As Tony stumbles around his room, arousing chuckles from the audience as they remember their own experience of what it is like after a night of heavy drinking. His slow morning start is cut short by the arrival of two individuals that work for a start-up that specialise in helping online viewers pass judgement on public figures. Marcus and Sarah, an experienced hitman and a newbie, respectively, knock Tony unconscious before they have a nonchalant conversation of the job and what methods they might use to finish it. Given that Tony is the one being trialled, the play spends half of Act I exploring Marcus and Sarah’s experiences and their perceptions of the job. In fact, we learned far more about Marcus’s flaws before the audience is given the tiniest glimpse of Tony’s. While this sets up part of the story to come, the extended conversation between Marcus and Sarah, while Tony was knocked out, felt out of place. I could not help but think that the pair behaved like complete amateurs as one would expect those in this line of job to understand their partners well and more efficient with that they do.
Boulton gives an enjoyable portrayal of a mad individual that relishes the fact that he gets to torture yet another person. Hoare, on the hand, plays a Sarah that constantly flips between innocence and eccentricity, her childlike behaviour sometimes more chilling than the madness of Marcus. Despite the fact that all three actors performed admirably, the core issues lie in the sequence of dialogues and the use of humour in this production. Tony’s crime is only revealed some way into Act II. Prior to that, there is no tangible description as to what he did and why Marcus and Sarah are even there in the first place. A decision was made by Boulton, who is also the writer, to have Tony plead for his life with humour. While this triggered some laughs, the behaviour is too far removed from any normal reaction, which should be fear and incoherently formed persuasions for pity. Instead, Tony appears to have too readily accepted his fate and decides to taunt his executioners.
With a significant number of struggles and gunshots, the audience are led to what appears to be the climax following the completion of Tony’s story. However, more followed. The last five to ten minutes of the show felt unnecessarily prolonged, and given that this takes place so soon after the first trial, the audience may struggle to gather sufficient energy to focus on the remainder of the story.
Despite the other issues of the play, Alys Whitehead’s set design and Michael Cottrell’s direction are very well done. The entire story takes place in a single room and in the absence of scene changes, the environment can become stagnated very quickly. However, the director draws the audience’s attention on different areas of the room to create some level of variability within this confined space. The white blinds for example, when closed, form a blank canvas for the live broadcast of the event.
The core issues of this production lie in the written material. Although the portrayal of extremist cancel culture is highly fitting for the modern media generation and has much potential as a thriller, it is ultimately let down by the pacing, and the bizarrely timed humour and self-explorations of the wrong characters.