Tatty Hennessy’s A Hundred Words for Snow was the pick of a triple-bill of monologues presented by Heretic Productions at the Arcola Theatre back in January. It’s popped up again at Vault Festival – the same text, but a different, smaller production, directed by Lucy Jane Atkinson and starring Gemma Barnett.
It remains a really lovely piece of writing, an ice-bound odyssey brimming with humour and humanity. It all revolves around Aurora – Rory – a teenager struggling to cope with the loss of her geography teacher and Arctic enthusiast dad. Rory’s solution: jump on a plane to Norway, hitch a ride to Svalbard, then take her father’s ashes on the once-in-a-lifetime journey he never got the chance to go on. To the North Pole.
It is, first and foremost, a really funny, really touching coming-of-age story of girl diving in at the deep end, meeting cool Norwegian boys and gnostic polar researches, and trekking into the unknown. But it’s also a thoughtful study of teenage grief, of adolescence in the face of extreme anguish. And it’s neatly layered, too – Hennessy artfully sows seeds at the play’s outset that have blossomed beautifully.
The prolific Atkinson – she’s directing three other shows at Vault Festival this year – sensibly keeps things simple, allowing the text to work its wintry magic.
Barnett is charming as the irrepressible explorer Rory. She doesn’t always capture the colloquial comedy that runs through the writing, but she finds enough sweetness to set off the waterworks come the conclusion.