FEATHERS IN THE SNOW
by Philip Ridley.
Southwark Playhouse Shipwright Yard corner of Tooley St and Bermondsey St SE1 2TF To 5 January 2013.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3.15pm.
Runs 2hr One interval.
TICKETS: 020 7407 0234.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 17 December.
An invigorating voyage through a lot in a little time.
Many qualities of folk-tales and Christmas shows are recreated in Philip Ridley’s new adventure. And like the best of the stories, it can be taken at different levels by different ages. It covers the span of generations, sometimes with a cartoon-like brevity (the marching , fighting armies, the acceptance of death – by collapsing to the floor or walking offstage). There’s the origin of religion, the power of nature, the political process that changes a young, ideal society to an acquisitive one wanting others’ greener islands.
And there’s the link between steps in the march of history. One of the most moving moments involves Lena II reminding us of the opening where her ancestor had to make – as in so many durable stories – a choice. That choice was between two kinds of men, representing practical strength and the power of imagination. Perhaps their separation explains a lot of what’s subsequently happened.
The lack of psychological subtlety is vital – this isn’t about examining individuals, now, but about what happens to create history – no wonder stuffy official historians turn up later-on to argue over the past.
But that doesn’t mean superficiality; a sense of coherence runs through the play, something particularly necessary given the action’s extensive span of time and places. Individual images help, especially the Blazer Bird whose red feathers awaken young Shylyla from her withdrawn state. The bird, of course, talks to the audience. Its almost casual fate, involving one of the handsome if callow youths in the tale, marks the shift in emphasis from creation to destruction.
The new character has already told us he’s going to be important, part of the comic edge fitted neatly to the telling of serious matters. The cast-list indicates the comic element too, as does the cartoon story style. It gives clarity to the outline, with space for each audience member to fill in the themes while the action swiftly proceeds.
The bare-stage style of David Mercatali’s production plus the blacks and whites of Simon Kenny’s design emphasise Blazerbird’s red, the physical heights of ensemble numbers and the cool intensity of the main performances.
2nd Neighbour/Queen Farina/ Two Two’s Dad/Two Two’s Cousin/Builder/Gorash/2nd Advisor/1st Survivor: Cerith Flynn.
Lena/Two Two’s Mum/Sea Witch/Mya/1st Advisor/Lena II: Nelly Harker.
1st Neighbour/Kalef/Two Two’s Aunt/Cook/1st Official Historian of Blazerbirdia/New Official Historian Two Twoia/2nd Survivor: Matthew Hendrickson.
Shylyla/Zia/4th Survivor: Deeivya Meir.
Stefan/3rd Neighbour/Blazerbird/Leopard/Legless/1st Official Historian of Two Twoia/2nd Offiicial Historian of Two Twoia/New Official Historian of Blazerbirdia: Adam Venus.
Jared/Two Two/Jarvish/Blazerbirdian General/3rd Survivor: Craig Vye.
Ensemble: Louis Allen, Natalie Argyropoulou, Diego Benzoni, Harriet Clark, Matthew R Connelly, Ryan McGibbon, Liberty Jackson, Michael Lee-McKenzie, Nassy Konan Maureen, Comfort Nwabia, Helen Reuben, Kieran Rogers, Maxim Ryder, Clementine Salvi-Offer, Ibrahim Shote, Melissa Tehrani, Douglas Wood.
Director: David Mercatali.
Designer/Costume: Simon Kenny.
Lighting: Gary Bowman.
Composer: Nick Bicât.
Musical Director: Joe Atkins.
Choreographer: Yael Lowenstein.
Associate director: Paul Edwards.
Assistant directors: Gus Miller, Max Pappenheim.