Review: A Hundred Words For Snow
Image: RG Creative
"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.
It's both highly appropriate and immensely encouraging to watch a play on International Women's Day with a young woman in the lead, written and directed by women too.
We all know that opportunities in the theatre are not nearly as gender-equal as they ought to be - even if progress is being made in many quarters.
So this production feels like a welcome breath of fresh air and turns out to be both novel and the kind of play that maybe only women can tackle effectively.
As we file in to take our seats in the Vaults' somewhat oddly named auditorium 'The Cage', we find Gemma Barnett's Rory already wandering a little aimlessly around the acting area.
The intention, I suspect, is to make an instant start when the audience are all seated.
And it does.
Moreover, it's a packed house for this unusual and inventive piece from writer Tatty Hennessy, that actually borders on being just a little oddball, but definitely iterestingly quirky.
The first section of this monologue, though, feels rather more like a lecture - on geography as much as anything else.
Patience, though, is a virtue here as this is a piece that carefully builds over time and needs initial space to impart some basic detail which is delivered with bags of personality that ably draws us in to the plot and the endearing central character.
Gemma Barnett as Rory
The story focuses on Rory - not a girl's name, we're instructed, but short for Aurora thanks to her dad's obsession with geography.
She's a slim-framed, intelligent and lively 15 year-old who's still at school, but not currently in attendance as her dad has recently died.
You wouldn't know that, though, from Rory's initial attitude because she seems impassive, almost blasé about her father's demise.
She sheds no tears in the initial scenes, but she does illustrate the determination to undertake a rather bonkers expedition: to distribute her father's ashes in a location appropriate to his interests and work - the North Pole.
Gemma Barnett fluidly traces a decidedly engaging description of Rory as a young woman stuck in those torrid years between adolescence and adulthood.
It's a keenly and realistically observed portrait, not only from the point of view of the commendable vitality of the acting, but also from a finely-worked script that powerfully blends the extraordinary and a sense of wonder (shown in an evocative description of the arctic landscape) with the mundane.
And there's a remarkably scripted and authentically acted scene of first sex that is totally genuine, touchingly frank and also very funny - one of the most effective and potent individual scenes I've seen in a long time and worth seeing the show for just on its own.
At the helm of this arctic adventure, Lucy Jane Atkinson keeps the expedition on a steady course in the early segments, then aptly ramps-up both the tension and the action whilst inserting a slice of appropriate poignancy, culminating the whole endeavour in a well-staged and highly efficacious crescendo as Rory eventually completes her mission.
Peppered with humour, sometimes unexpectedly from geographical facts and at other times from the self-deprecating insights we get from Rory about her body and boys, the show proves not only that the art of the monologue is truly alive and kicking, but - if any further proof were required - that women can tell terrific stories.
A hugely enjoyable and highly recommended production.
Links and related content
ActDrop listing for The Vaults
Our show listing for A Hundred Words For Snow
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