Friday, March 9, 2018

Review: 'A Hundred Words For Snow' at Vault Festival, 8th March 2018

A Hundred Words For Snow reviewed by David James
Rating: 5 Stars

My advice is to bring a hanky. Tatty Hennessey's A Hundred Words For Snow is one hell of a monologue, transporting us from suburban London to the frozen Arctic and guiding us through the depths of grief. I'm generally suspicious of sentimental shows  - I get annoyed when someones waving an onion at me in an attempt to coax out a tear. But this does things honestly, exploring misery, loss and adolescent uncertainty with sincerity and wit. It's brill.

Our heroine is 15-year-old Rory (Gemma Barnett), who is attempting to process the sudden death of her father. In the wake of his death, everything feels muted: she's alienated by the thoughtless platitudes at his funeral and the jarring return to humdrum domesticity. It's only when she ventures into her Dad's study and sees his never-fulfilled holiday plans that she realises what she must do: steal her Mum's credit card, stuff her Dad's urn into a backpack and head to the North Pole to scatter his ashes.

It's a pretty bonkers ambition, but Hennessey goes out of her way to make Rory's attempt plausible. It sets the stage for a journey that takes her via Tromsø in Norway to the island of Svalbard and to the frozen infinity of the Arctic. Along the way we really get to know Rory, delving deep into her insecurities, mindset and awe at the epic polar scenery. She's one of the more complex and likeable characters I've seen in a long time, and though the show is just an hour long, we understand her.

Laying on top of all this is that the majestic and stark Arctic is a deeply satisfying metaphor for Rory's unresolved grief. Hennessey doesn't treat grief as something unpleasant to be conquered, but something starkly beautiful in its own right: profound sadness shouldn't be swept under the rug, it should be explored and understood. Rory's fearless journey into the ice accomplishes this, it's only when she's stared down the blizzard that she can process her father's death.

All this is making the show sound a bit morose. It is, but the tears are leavened with a tonne of laughs. Hennessey's writing is peppered with very funny insights, borne of Rory's idiosyncratic viewpoint on the world. Though we never completely forget the weight of her Dad's ashes, the load is lightened by some very funny facts about the history of Arctic exploration and some well-observed asides about human behaviour. A particular highlight is a beautifully written segment about a sexual encounter, which manages to be both hilarious and movingly poetic.

Writing this good demands a great performance to do it justice, and Gemma Barnett delivers in spades. She gives Rory a gawky physicality and energy that goes a long way to making her a believable teenager,  frequently locking eyes with people in the audience to make the show, for one brief moment, a two-person dialogue. Barnett has charisma to spare, her delivery seamlessly transitioning from light-hearted sarcasm all to shiver-inducing emotional nakedness.

What else is left to say? A Hundred Words For Snow is a brilliant bit of writing performed to perfection. As I left I passed people dabbing away tears and sniffling into tissues - tears that the show absolutely earns. This is a true highlight of Vault 2018 and shouldn't be missed.

A Hundred Words For Snow is at Vault Festival until March 11th. Tickets here.

Tags: , , , ,

0 Responses to “Review: 'A Hundred Words For Snow' at Vault Festival, 8th March 2018”

Post a Comment

© All articles copyright LONDON CITY NIGHTS.
Designed by SpicyTricks, modified by LondonCityNights