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First Snow/Premiere Neige review at Summerhall, Edinburgh – ‘meaty examination of identity’

First Snow/Première Neige. Photo: Sally Jubb First Snow/Première Neige. Photo: Sally Jubb
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“Brexit, Trump – that’s change!” someone shouts early in First Snow/Premiere Neige, the National Theatre of Scotland’s Quebecois co-production. Following the NTS’ celebration of diversity and opportunity, during recent referendums, this show feels as though the company is readying for a long, hard and very bleak winter.

The shout comes from Harry, the character – a token right winger in a character list of liberals – not Harry Standjofski, the actor, who, breaking the fourth wall, explains he is often cast in such roles because of his anglophone upbringing.

Harry’s sister Isabelle (Isabelle Vincent) has summoned her extended dysfunctional family back to the farm where she is about to make a big revelation. Each family member brings their own issues and prejudices – and for each the oppressor is different.

As the characters – and the actors – debate the nature of oppression and consider the future, the play breaks theatre conventions and traditional form. In much the same way contemporary narratives of politics, and independence referendums, have broken with political conventions.

The delineation between actor and character is sometimes too confused, but Patrice Dubois’ direction is otherwise sharp and clever. The NTS might be regrouping, but it is not drawing in its horns when it comes to political engagement.

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Smart, meaty examination of identity in Scotland and Quebec