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:
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Wilton’s Music Hall
Reviewed – 27th June 2018
“as the physical theatre of the misfiring affections became a bawdy, raucous spectacle the audience is utterly won over”
With lighting rigs exposed, no scenery but a looming fabric moon overhead, the stripped back stage at Wilton’s Music Hall provides the perfect setting for The Faction’s stripped back Midsummer Night’s Dream. Disposing of the customary prettiness, director Mark Leipacher aims to expose new textual truths within the play, namely that the war-ravaged Athenians of the period would have been willingly distracted by the aristocratic nuptials of the plot, just as (he claims) we’re happily diverted by Royal events in the midst of looming climate change.
So it is that the four young lovers are drawn into the Athenian woods to be engulfed by the magic and mayhem of fairies and artisan players, similarly attracted to promised festivities. With only the bare text, everyday clothes, a few accents and their own physicality (great credit here to The Faction’s movement director, Richard James Neale) the ensemble take on the characters’ conflicting desires. Demetrius (Christopher York) expects to marry Hermia (Lowri Izzard), who prefers Lysander (Jeremy Ang Jones) while Helena (Laura Evelyn) pursues Demetrius. With the introduction of Oberon’s magical herbs, desires turn upside down with the Fairy Queen Titania lusting after an oafishly braying Bottom (Christopher Hughes) and Helena is distressed to find herself now pursued by both Lysander and Demetrius.
For such a complex plot, the idea of stripping back to the bare text is an interesting one, it unveils the darker side of the play as, divested of finery, the actions seem more lustful and even boorish, perhaps a truer reflection of many romantic experiences. The movement is brilliant in places, creating scene and mood through background dance, replacing the traditional entrances and exits. However, the most important motif in the play is contrast, something this production didn’t really have, at least between the groups of characters. Men wore floral shirts, but aside from that the cast wore much the same as the audience. If Egeus can become Puck through the simple application of a backwards baseball cap, something similar could have helped others.
Sound and lighting design (Yaiza Varona and Ben Jacobs) strain hard to guide the audience through the changes and good use is made of Wilton’s split level stage to delineate roles. There are also some fascinating interpretations from the cast. Lowri Izzard is crystal clear vocally but also in her characterisations of Hermia, Starveling and Cobweb. Linda Marlowe’s degenerate Puck is ingenious, malevolent, yet likeable against the odds. In any case, by the second half, as the physical theatre of the misfiring affections became a bawdy, raucous spectacle the audience is utterly won over. Whether it was The Faction, the Music Hall or the comedy itself that does the winning, it hardly matters.
Reviewed by Dominic Gettins
Photography by The Other Richard
A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Wilton’s Music Hall until 30th June
Previously reviewed productions of A Midsummer Night’s Dream