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Snowflakes By Robert Boulton at Park Theatre

Robert Boulton’s Snowflakes, first seen at The Old Red Lion in 2021, is an ugly, violent play involving three unpleasant people!

The action takes place in a London hotel room, cleverly yet simply designed by Alys Whitehead. There is a picture window with a view of the Shard, a chair, a double bed, and evidence of a night of passion scattered around the room. When we enter the auditorium Tony (Henry Davis) is lying face down, presumably hungover, on the bed. Suddenly there is a “Room Service” knock at the door – and if only Tony had NOT answered that knock! In come Marcus (the playwright Robert Boulton) and Sarah (Louise Hoare) who both work for a ‘start-up’ company dedicated to ‘cancel culture’.

Snowflakes (c) Jennifer Evans.
Snowflakes (c) Jennifer Evans.

It is Sarah’s first day ‘in the field’ whereas Marcus is an old hand and really enjoys his work, hurting and torturing his victims with great glee and abandon. Their form of justice is broadcast via social media to millions. Today it is Tony’s turn to stand trial by streaming, whilst Sarah is forced to question how far she will go for ‘justice’.

Very little happens in the first act which is mostly a rather verbose duologue between Sarah and Marcus. Direction is by Michael Cottrell and it feels as if every single line if not word has been dissected, the result of which is that rarely does the play flow: there are too many unnecessary pauses.

Boulton is suitably threatening in his portrayal of Marcus from the moment we see him. There is a great deal of pent-up energy and anger here which more and more, as the play progresses, expresses itself in outbursts of violence. However, at times the portrayal is in danger of becoming uncontrolled and needs reigning back in order to make it even more menacing. NOT someone one would care to meet alone on a dark night, let alone knocking on your hotel bedroom door!

Sarah is the most fully written of the three protagonists, having doubts and being able to question what she and Marcus are doing. Hoare is very believable in this role and the only person on stage that one can really empathise with. She imbues her dialogue with more light and shade and variety of pace than Marcus does: he obviously does not rate her at all, preferring to be doing the task by himself!

Tony, on trial for his various ‘crimes’, says little, especially in Act One, but has many painful things done to him – “The new game is called: If you don’t answer our questions, politely, I’m going to hurt you”. The violence is often grotesque leaving some members of the audience squirming in their seats, and the fight director, Bethan Clarke, must be congratulated for the realism when the audience is so close to the action.

This is not a play that will appeal to everyone, and it is certainly a difficult couple of hours for those who are at all squeamish, but it is a very unusual piece of theatre which might be even more compelling if the first half especially could be trimmed and the whole play run without an interval; much of the tension built up is lost when we are allowed ‘out’ to have a drink and relax for fifteen minutes!

By now you will know whether or not this play will appeal to you!

3 Star Review

Review by John Groves

Snowflakes takes Cancel Culture quite literally to question ideas of morality, revenge and justice with gleeful, violent abandon. Combining the technological nihilism of Black Mirror with the dark comedy and horror of Inside No. 9, it lacerates modern outrage and trial by social media.

Marcus and Sarah work for a very special start-up. They don’t work in a shared office. They don’t sell locally sourced, gluten-free coconut water. They do the job that so many people call out for in the comments section. So, outsource your rage, disgust and vitriol and let’s get to the truth before the media storm blows over. They may not based in a co-working space but they do have an app: Justice isn’t blind, it’s streamed to millions. Don’t forget to like, comment and subscribe!

This sci-fi black comedy resonates in various directions, implicating questions about the potency of social media, female empowerment and how characters earnestly confront trauma. Comedy, drama and satire; Snowflakes is presented by Dissident Theatre – a company with the goal of making theatre to confront the base, the repressed and ambiguous corners of the world we live in – and Chronic Insanity, an Off West End award-winning theatre company specialising in all things digital, interactive and immersive.

Dissident Theatre Company x Chronic Insanity in association with Park Theatre present
Snowflakes
By Robert Boulton
Directed by Michael Cottrell
Plays: Wed 12 Apr – Sat 6 May
https://parktheatre.co.uk/

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Author

  • John Groves

    John Groves studied singing with Robert Easton and conducting with Clive Timms. He was lucky enough to act in the British premiere of a Strindberg play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe more years ago than he cares to remember, as well as singing at the Royal Opera House - once! He taught drama and music at several schools, as well as examining the practical aspects of GCSE and A level drama for many years. For twenty five years he has conducted a brass band as well as living on one of the highest points of East Sussex surrounded by woodland, deer, foxes and badgers, with kites and buzzards flying overhead.

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