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Blizzard – Soho Theatre | Review

Imagine what it must have been like for Emily Woof’s character, apparently named Dotty, or at least that what her husband calls her. But Dotty is also what she calls her husband. She is persuaded to go to an academic conference in Switzerland to deliver a keynote lecture on his behalf. He is incapacitated, or as he would prefer it, indisposed, and for some reason, he doesn’t choose another academic to give the lecture, about ‘Criticality, Connectivity and the Neuronal Avalanche’ but instead persuades his wife, who I will call Mrs Dotty, to do it, even though she has openly admitted her personal knowledge on the subject is patchy at best.

Emily Woof in Blizzard. Photo credit: Viktor Erik Emmanuel
Emily Woof in Blizzard. Photo credit: Viktor Erik Emmanuel

It seems bizarre to me that Mr Dotty, so to speak, didn’t at least go through with an initial idea to cancel or postpone the lecture. While I could spend some time highlighting some other plot holes, they somewhat pale into insignificance in the light of the show’s wider points about the unpredictability of human nature and the world at large. Mr Dotty’s outlook on just about anything is rooted in literalism, the sort of scientist who views a deep kiss as a mutual exchange of miscellaneous microbes, and nothing else.

Just as well, then, that Mrs Dotty is the sole narrator, with a more nuanced view of the world – and she is not intellectually challenged in the grand scheme of things, referencing various philosophical strands of thought she has studied. Only later does it become clear why she gives the audience a brief rundown of what perspectives she agreed with, what she didn’t like, what she found difficult to fully comprehend, and so on. When it comes to giving her husband’s lecture, she isn’t just going to drily read the words as scripted and subject her audience to ‘death by PowerPoint’. Instead, she will (without giving it all away) engage her brain, and in doing so, engage the brains of others in the room.

The end result is loathed by some and adored by others, particularly a performer who she ends up befriending, who regales her with all sorts of anecdotes about an apparently colourful and well-travelled life. Some stories are more believable than others. The show puts a lot of different ideas forward, but doesn’t develop very many of them, other than making a slightly laboured point that not everything has to be seen through rational, scientific lenses, and there is joy and contentment to be found in things that can’t necessarily be logically explained.

Still, Woof’s character enjoys a good rapport with the audience, and the narrative is assured enough not to force through a blissfully happy ending simply to send the audience out on an agreeably positive note. That much is logical in this perceptive and gently amusing production.

4 stars

Review by Chris Omaweng

Soho Theatre in association with Shared Experience presents Blizzard

Written and performed by EMILY WOOF
Director HAMISH McCOLL
Movement Director SIAN WILLIAMS
Sound Designer and Composer THEO FOLEY
Set and Costume Designer ELLIE WINTER
Lighting Designer ANDREW CROFT
Projectionist DAVID CALLANAN
Stage Manager FAE HOCHGEMUTH
Assistant Director SAM WOOF
Associate Producers MISCHA ALEXANDER and CONRAD LYNCH

Blizzard is an intimate epic about philosophy and neuroscience, dance and animals, body and soul. A dazzling exploration of ideas, relationships and love. Emily Woof gives a mesmerising performance as she creates a rich and beguiling world in which big ideas are undressed and clothes have opinions of their own.

Tuesday 7 May to Saturday 25 May 2024
Soho Theatre Upstairs
www.sohotheatre.com

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