What an absolute pleasure, this International Women’s Day, to be writing a review of such a female-driven show. A Hundred Words for Snow at Trafalgar Studios is written by Tatty Hennessy, directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson and performed by Gemma Barnett. It follows Rory, a teenage girl who has abruptly lost her father, a geography teacher, who dreamed of being an explorer. In an old-fashioned sense of the term – following in the footsteps of Shackleton and Nansen. In the wake of all these historical men, Rory is a welcome hero, a young woman with complex thoughts and opinions, and an irresistible charm.
So much of this comes down to the joy of Barnett’s performance. Barnett is a master of comedic subtlety; her expressions are so warm, and she really grips the audience, from moments of elation and laugh-out-loud humour through to discomfort, loss and grief. We are right there with her at every turn, and the adventure feels authentically both physical and deeply emotional.
Atkinson has directed such a compelling play; in the programme, she states that much of the intention was to play with what is traditionally expected of a teenage girl, in an “expressly masculine environment”. This contrast is beautifully rendered, against the set and lighting by Christianna Mason and Lucy Adams respectively. We always know exactly where Rory is, despite the vast terrain from her bedroom to the Pole that she explores, making the design both simple yet sophisticated. This is very slick theatre-making indeed.
It would be remiss of me not to gush a little about Hennessy’s writing. There is no single unnecessary word; everything feels firmly in its place. Rory is a beautifully executed character. Having been a teenage girl, I identified with everything she expressed – the concerns, the fears, doubts and difficulties, the humour and sarcasm – all of which were real and deeply felt. Hennessy has created a smart, poignant play, in which there is no lost moment.
A Hundred Words for Snow is a joy from start to finish. It is funny, thoughtful and heart-warming. I left the theatre ready for an adventure of my own.
Review by Christina Care
“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.
A Hundred Words for Snow
Twitter: @RJGProductions #HundredWords
Booking Period: 5 – 30 March 2019
Running Time: 65 minutes (no interval)
Age Restrictions: 14+
Trafalgar Studios 2, 14 Whitehall, Westminster, London SW1A 2DY