Snowflakes

Snowflakes takes cancel culture to the extreme”.

Robert Boulton’s dystopian black comedy starts with celebrity writer Tony (Henry Davis) waking up dazed in a hotel room after a ‘big night’. Answering the phone to what we assume is his wife, we know the black lace pants he’s found strewn across the room are not hers. We form an opinion of him. 

Room service knocking on the door turns out to be a couple of contract killers, Marcus (Boulton, the writer) and Sarah (Louise Hoare), armed with a bunch of weapons and a video camera. 

They’re coming for Tony, who’s been accused of sexual abuse (although this is not revealed until much later) but won’t address the allegations. In this world, rants in the comments section on social media have moved up a notch to a live stream of the accused, answering to the charges.

Nothing to do with the legal system, Marcus and Sarah work for a very special start-up, an organisation whose subscribers watch Tony and vote on whether he lives or dies. But doesn’t the fact it’s got this far mean the ‘people’ have already made up their minds? Snowflakes makes us think about this. 

The first act spends quite a bit of time introducing Marcus, (the poster boy of the start-up), Sarah (it’s her first day) and what they do, whilst their ‘victim’ is out cold. It set things up and there are some interesting discussions about justice and revenge. I was eager to see how it was going to play out with Tony and know what he’d been accused of, so found it a little slow, but to be fair to the writer there was a purpose to the gentler first half which is revealed later. 

The double act banter well. Sarah’s references to Marcus being uneasy because she’s a woman doing this job assert well, that even though they are here to do something out of the ordinary, everyday work place issues still exist. It’s reasonably funny, but sometimes the jokes don’t land in act one.  

Boulton’s portrayal of Marcus is frightening. It’s a treat to see a writer playing his own creation because Boulton gets under the skin of Marcus and is adept at presenting the character as someone who revels in this situation. 

Hoare is skilful at showing Sarah’s greenness and inner conflict. Marcus is an old hand, it’s clear he thinks this is a done deal, and is here to kill, but Sarah believes they will get to the truth, so Tony’s demise is not a given for her. Hoare’s intricate depiction of Sarah means she’s likeable at times, which has us questioning our judgment and is unsettling. 

Act two has more pace and laughs as Tony is streamed on the video link whilst strapped in a chair. Sitting with his back to the audience as a bag is whipped off his head, Alys Whitehead’s set design works brilliantly with the live feed projecting onto the closed white vertical blinds of the hotel window at the back of the stage, which doubles up as a screen. Henry Davis is superb at playing Tony’s range of emotions. Comical in his hungover haze, then arrogant and entitled, but also vulnerable; fearing for his life when he’s being interrogated. 

An entertaining but uncomfortable couple of hours, it should feel absurd, but worryingly has us wondering if this could happen. I left with more questions than answers. Surely this is the desired effect, so hats off to Boulton! 

A clever, insightful and terrifying piece of work! 

Snowflakes is playing at Park Theatre until  6 May 2023. For tickets Snowflakes | Projects | Park Theatre

Review written by Victoria Willetts

Photo credit: Jennifer Evans

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