BARBARA HODGSON REVIEWS THE TERMINAL VELOCITY OF SNOWFLAKES AT LIVE THEATRE
IT’S like sitting inside a snow globe. That is my first impression on taking my seat in the upstairs studio theatre for this two-hander debut play by Nina Berry which is returning to Live after a sell-out opening run here last year.
I love its wintry staging which has giant snowflakes – actually more like snowballs – suspended above a startlingly white set, with changing lighting effects soon adding magical golds or cold blues.
And the ‘girl’ we see on stage in the yellow coat and ‘boy’ in blue with a bobble hat really stand out against all that whiteness.
The play opens with Heather Carroll and Daniel Watson playing – at this stage – children of seven and nine.
They’re having a first awkward meeting in Heaton Park where they capture childlike wonder and shared excitement at the world and the girl – who we eventually find out is called Rosie – tells the older Charlie that no two snowflakes are the same.
Snow, as you might expect from the title, features large in the play which, over its brief 80 minute-or-so run, sees the pair meet up again by accident when they are teenagers – appearing more confident but actually both lonely and uncertain – then, for a third time, as young adults when they finally get together.
In between we see them leading separate yet parallel lives: Charlie feeling fed up with in his job and relationships in Newcastle and Rosie experiencing much the same angst in London.
Both actors bring real emotion to their overburdened roles and they work together well on the small stage: moving together physically at points in the story when the lives of their characters – at opposite ends of the country – mirror each other.
And at key stages along the way there is a backdrop of falling snowflakes. By the time they do eventually come together, reuniting at a Newcastle club in more of a mutual understanding than a flying sparks moment, the snowy background adds a touch of magic as snow tends to do.
If the story ended there I’d have been
quite content but the feel-good moment soon passes.
There follows a flurry – growing into a storm – of scenarios about their future together which, for me, felt more born of youthful fancy than real life experience. I don’t want to give anything away but, while the latter scenes didn’t connect emotionally with me, I did hear several sniffles from the audience.
But then, we’re reminded, these scenarios are just ‘possibilities’ and the story ends back at its starting point, with the first scene being relived slightly differently.
Whether this suggests the couple’s lives will play out with a different conclusion to the one we saw, who knows, but I imagine audiences during the play’s three and a half week run (until December 16) will be opting for a festive happy ending.