The Silence of Snow
Jack Studio Theatre
Reviewed – 14th March 2019
“the play does not move its audience as much as it should, though it certainly entertains”
On entering the Jack Studio Theatre, the stage is bare but for a spotlit figure in a white hospital gown that the lighting tinges blue. It’s late afternoon, we soon learn, in Muswell Hill and there is a gas fire. Patrick Hamilton is waiting for his last round of electroconvulsive therapy, bottle in hand, as he invites us into his story.
You may know Hamilton for his success as a writer in the early 1900s. The hit plays ‘Rope’ and ‘Gaslight’ were both his, and he penned several successful novels: ‘Twenty Thousand Streets Under the Sky’, ‘Hangover Square’ and ‘The Slaves of Solitude’, snippets of which we see punctuating Hamilton’s life story. What you may not know is that Hamilton was an alcoholic, and his drinking had a massive impact on his relationships with family and lovers.
Written and performed by Mark Farrelly, a dark life story is told with wit and a love of language. Farrelly frequently addresses the audience directly, knowing nods to a contemporary listener. There is a playful energy to the piece, despite the constant hanging presence of drink which features in both his life and his plays. Farrelly throws himself into the many characters that grace the stage, and is consistently engaging and energised in this one man show.
The portrayals of some of the characters are a bit heavy handed at points, overly emphatic in a way that undermines their truthfulness, and means the play does not move its audience as much as it should, though it certainly entertains. The female characters are given little distinction and are not drawn with sufficient vividness to make them real. From the glimpses we get of them they seem like potentially fascinating characters, whose contributions to this story go untapped. Whilst the drunk scene of verbal abuse is a particularly strong moment in the play in terms of emotional impact, it could be even stronger if we had a clearer picture of those on the other side. The scene also goes on just a little bit longer than it needs to, something that the play as a whole suffers from. The language is incredibly rich and clever throughout. Whilst this seems appropriate for Hamilton’s own taste, and the depiction of a writer’s life, moments of simplicity in both language and portrayal would help root this play in its emotional story.
Full of potential, wit and life, The Silence of Snow needs to strip itself back and find the truth of the narrative and the people involved, so that it really makes the impact the narrative deserves.
The play is dedicated to Tim Welling, who was the first person to read the play but took his life before he could see it performed. As a tribute to this Farrelly runs a collection for MIND after every show, and has so far raised a stunning £7,500.
Reviewed by Amelia Brown
The Silence of Snow
Jack Studio Theatre until 16th March
Last ten shows reviewed at this venue: