Snowflakes at Park Theatre
“Snowflake” is a term that is increasingly bandied about to imply someone is fragile and quick to take offence. Its prevalence in our lexicon has been amplified by social media, which has allocated it the go-to derogatory putdown of recent times. Writer Robert Boulton, who also performs, takes this as a starting point for his debut play of the same name. Providing a contemptuous commentary on the modern era, the play utilises dark humour to make some valid observations. Cancel culture, trial-by-media, justice and the consequences of our actions are all packed in, but does Snowflakes pack enough of a punch?
Tony (Henry Davis) is sprawled facedown on a hotel bed as the audience piles into the compact studio space at Park Theatre. As he wakes up to room service knocking on the door, it quickly becomes apparent that colleagues Marcus (Boulton) and Sarah (Louise Hoare) aren’t exactly legit. Rendering Tony unconscious, the two set up a video camera and lay out an array of foreboding looking tools.
We learn that Marcus and Sarah are hired hitmen, tasked with interrogating and potentially eliminating Tony, a writer who committed an unpunished crime against a woman some years prior. We don’t gain a great deal of information about this as Boulton initially casts his primary focus on Marcus and Sarah. This is to the detriment of Davis’s character as from the off we are effectively told to dislike him. It’s perhaps fitting, given how easy it has become to cast judgement on people and cancel them in a mere matter of clicks.
Davis does his very best with the material, excavating some depth from a mostly two-dimensional, unlikeable character, but with reported action and too much exposition, we are left wanting more. Crucially we don’t care about him enough, which makes the ultimate outcome of his interactions with Marcus and Louise somewhat subdued. Yes, his crimes are abhorrent but, without delving deeper into the character, he is in danger of being relegated as a mere cipher for the author and his opinions.
Marcus and Louise compensate for this with an engrossing back-and-forth. He is the more experienced of the two and relishes “getting his hands dirty”; she is more reserved and strives to be objective without taking any pleasure in what she is doing. It is revealed that the camera is set up to stream their “interrogations” to patrons who ultimately decide on the fate of the subject, which nicely alludes to the power and influence of those who sit behind keyboards.
Boulton is convincing in his role, emitting an unpredictable and menacing energy amongst the banter. Hoare excels in conveying her “first day nerves” and complements Boulton well with her contrasting demeanour. There are dark undertones to her character that can’t be concealed and her gradual metamorphosis is engaging to witness. Both capitalise on the comedy brimming beneath the surface, while also being suitably cold and intimidating. Scenes of physical violence are pleasingly credible thanks to the performers’ commitment alongside Bethan Clarke’s fight direction.
One questions the decision to include an interval, which snatches away much-needed momentum from an unevenly paced first half. Fortunately, a sturdier tempo propels us through the second act, which offers some truly uncomfortable and tense moments, along with a welcome surprise climax. Still, there are too many words being used without a great deal actually being said – we understand the intentions of the play but are kept waiting for its ideas to fully emerge and be examined beyond surface level.
While there is much meat to chew on here, the audience are left unable to fully digest a somewhat overstuffed production. Pertinent themes are explored in an entertaining way, yet at times the play becomes too convoluted in its attempt to hammer home its points. It adds to a conversation about social media and cancel culture that we are already having, rather than starting an entirely new one. An assured debut by Boulton, there remains the sense that with a tighter execution Snowflakes could carry an even greater impact.
Photo: Jennifer Evans
Snowflakes is at Park Theatre from 12th April until 6th May 2023. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.
Watch a trailer for the production here: