Downbeat and often devastatingly insightful, Snowflake is a heartfelt Christmas-time drama taking its title from the recently-coined term used to belittle anyone showing a scrap of emotional vulnerability.
Mike Bartlett’s play crackles with timely, utterly believable dialogue, skilfully articulating the assumptions and hypocrisies that underpin many intergenerational conflicts.
Premiered at Oxford’s Old Fire Station Theatre in 2018 the story centres on middle-aged widower Andy, alone in a church hall on Christmas Eve, rehearsing for a possible reconciliation with his estranged daughter. Elliot Levey plays the part with great sensitivity, convincingly conveying all the contradictions of a character who’s vulnerable, patronising, relatable, detestable, and bumblingly naive all at once.
Later, he’s joined by Amber James’ wise and articulate 20-something Natalie, whose seemingly random arrival transforms the show from dense monologue to fizzy, fast-paced confrontation. Meanwhile, Ellen Robertson impresses as daughter Maya, prickling with cold hostility that barely covers the roiling, raw emotions beneath the surface.
Director Clare Lizzimore handles the play’s uneven pacing with finesse, allowing the characters time to stew in awkwardness or explode in sudden outbursts, desperate to be heard. Every argument unfolds with a sense of spiralling inevitability. Every moment of dawning understanding feels like a revelation.
Jeremy Herbert’s expansive, naturalistic set effectively captures the tone of the piece, presenting a dreary hall, all tan walls and parquet floors, but dressed up in bunting and tinsel, leaving the space – like the play’s characters – tinged with desperation, but still ultimately hopeful.