Brought to us by playwright Tatty Hennessy, A Hundred Words For Snow is a one-woman play performed by recent Oxford School of Drama graduate Gemma Barnett. While, understandably, it doesn’t actually contain one hundred different words for snow, it does offer the audience a charming, well produced emotive piece that manages to be lighthearted while also dealing with a number of significant life-changing issues. And often pulling few punches while doing so.
The piece is written with Barnett’s character Rory (short for Aurora) addressing the audience directly in a storytelling style that is a technique I’ve rarely encountered. It’s a style that can be hard to use as it relies on the quality of the character, both written and acted, to make it effective. I can honestly say that in this piece I was invested in the character and the story from very early on. Barnett had so much riding on her as the sole performer and I found her to be engaging, believable and near-flawless in her delivery. A natural choice for the role and very well cast.
A Hundred Words For Snow begins by discussing the death of Rory’s father – a subject that must pluck the heartstrings of many – and this delicate topic was dealt with sensitively in a series of scenes that were well thought out and effective. From there onward, we, the audience, were in the throes of a road-trip plot following the recognisable ‘lead character heads from point A to point B stopping at points C, D and E along the way’ sequence.
Along the epic journey that would in reality have been over 2600 miles, we are vicariously a part of Rory dealing with loss, ‘coming of age’, and in many ways learning to understand herself and the world around her better. A lot to pack into an hour and, if I’m honest, it did seem a little rushed in parts with some significant time skips that (while entirely understandable) were a little noticeable and given the storytelling style, could actually have been addressed differently to take some of the impact away.
Connoisseurs of the road-trip plot will be used to the fact that these often take the form of a Comedy or a Drama but the thing I particularly liked about A Hundred Words For Snow is that there were equal elements of both. And often not constrained to separate sections of the story. Rather, the production managed to re-create what we see so often in life; the funny side to a bad event. The trip Rory takes has its pitfalls and many of them have both little moments of sadness and little moments of humour/happiness. It was a very pleasant experience to see that reflected so realistically.
It’s a bugbear of mine that so often there is an easily foreseeable ending to a plot and while I think it is pretty obvious how A Hundred Words For Snow is destined to end, I would make the point that in my opinion, the ending is good enough and individual enough that its foresee-ability should not put you off.
An often used turn of phrase is that it will ‘make you laugh, make you cry’, and very few ever do. This is no exception. You may manage not to cry, you may even find some of the puns to be unfunny, but A Hundred Words For Snow hits an emotional level that is impressive in its intensity and its range. For a charming, disarming, engaging production that is familiar and edgy simultaneously, I would certainly recommend it.
Review by Damien Russell
“it’s a bit weird to be sitting in the Arctic Circle chatting to a fit boy with your
Dad’s ashes in your backpack”
Rory’s Dad was an explorer.
Well, not literally. Literally he was a Geography teacher. But inside, she knows, he
was Bear Grylls.
And when he dies suddenly in an accident, Rory knows he needs her help to make
one last expedition.
With a plastic compass and Dad’s ashes at her side, Rory sets off in the footsteps
of all the dead beardy explorers before her, to get Dad to the North Pole. Before
Mum finds out they’ve gone.
A Hundred Words for Snow is about being an explorer in a melting world. It’s a
coming of age story. With polar bears.
The show has been developed with the support of the Peggy Ramsey Foundation
and was a winner of the Heretic Voices Monologue Competition.
Cast: Rory Gemma Barnett
Creatives: Director Lucy Jane Atkinson
Writer Tatty Hennessy
Sound Design Mark Sutcliffe
Producer Rebecca Gwyther for RG Creative
A HUNDRED WORDS
By Tatty Hennessy
VAULT Festival 2018
7 – 11 March 2018