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Snowflake review at the Old Fire Station, Oxford – ‘Mike Bartlett’s heart-warming new play’

Elliot Levey in Snowflake at Old Fire Station, Oxford. Photo: Alex Harvey Brown

There’ll be some politically fraught conversations round the table this Christmas. Snowflake, the Old Fire Station’s Christmas show by Mike Bartlett, explores the generational divide, sharply focused through an estranged father and daughter.

Andy is waiting for his daughter Maya, who may or may not be coming home. As Andy tries to work out what he did to make Maya leave two years ago, Elliot Levey’s subtle performance gradually reveals a devastating iceberg of loneliness through his opening, 40-minute monologue.

The play picks up pace in the second half with 24-year-old Natalie’s arrival, who challenges Andy’s political views. Racheal Ofori brings a spiky energy to her character. It is testament to Bartlett’s skill as a playwright that both sides of the debate are given equal care and neither character is allowed to become a stereotype.

The keen detail of Clare Lizzimore’s direction builds a fragile bond between Andy and Natalie; the cup of tea that is first accepted grudgingly is later offered as a sign of trust.

Jeremy Herbert’s set makes excellent use of the black box space, transporting the audience to a drafty church hall Andy has decorated specially. The act of switching on some fairy lights becomes a simple but effective vehicle for theatrical transformation.

Snowflake is like a really good Christmas film, in play form, with a strong emotional arc. Rather than using “snowflake” as a derogatory term for oversensitive millennials, the play suggests that in some ways we are all snowflakes – fragile, vulnerable and, ultimately, human.

 

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Verdict
Mike Bartlett's new play is heart-warming, topical Christmas show for grown ups, constructed with care and craft
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