Frozen Relationships Thaw In Christmas Drama Snowflake
Mike Bartlett’s new comedy-drama is an engaging examination of inter-generational conflict in a divided Britain. It starts off as a play about intimate family relationships, but then turns towards much broader, political themes with which Bartlett is associated. The title cleverly suggests both the Christmas setting and the millennial ‘snowflake generation’ sometimes dismissed as over-sensitive and too easily offended.
The first half is a monologue delivered by Andy, a fortysomething museum worker in Oxford whose wife died of cancer six years ago and who’s not seen his daughter Maya for the three years since she suddenly left home. Apparently not knowing why she walked out, he is desperate for a reunion and hearing she’s back in town has texted her to say he has hired a village hall to welcome her back. A surprise appearance from another young woman, Natalie, leads to revelations in the second half.
With his references to pop cultural icons like James Bond and Terry Scott, and old-fashioned chauvinist attitudes, Andy appears stuck in the past. But he believes younger people like Maya and Natalie are too thin-skinned in their politically correct idealism which excludes the ‘rough and tumble of life’.
Brexit is mentioned as a divisive issue in society, with updated references to Boris Johnson and also the local area of Kilburn. There’s plenty of amusing interplay, as well as an emotional undertow. But the set-up does seem contrived to engineer a debate. And the play is weighted in Andy’s favour as not only does he have the lion’s share of the lines but also most of the laughs.
Elliot Levey makes a likeable, sad Andy with his clumsy but sincere efforts at reconciliation. Amber James is a spirited, straight-talking Natalie, with Ellen Robertson making an impact in her short stage time as the angrily disaffected Maya.
Jeremy Herbert sets the scene nicely with a meticulously detailed design of a community centre complete with ‘Welcome Back’ banner and cheesy Christmas decorations. Clare Lizzimore directs an entertaining, heartwarming show (with a redundant interval) which underlines the importance of listening to each other.
Snowflake, Kiln Theatre, 269 Kilburn High Road, NW6 7JR. Tickets £10–£32.50, until 25 January 2020.
Last Updated 20 December 2019