WINTER and THEN THE SNOW CAME
by Jon Fosse by Jimmy Grimes.
Orange Tree Theatre 1 Clarence Street TW9 2SA To 9 July 2011.
Mon-Sat 7.45pm Mat Sat 3pm.
Audio-described 5 July.
Runs 2hr 30min One interval.
TICKETS: 020 8940 3633.
Review: Timothy Ramsden 2 July.
Varied results as winter cold’s created amid sweltering summer.
There’s a wintery connection to this summer’s Orange Tree Directors Showcase, an end-of-season doubling that gives the year’s trainee directors a show of their own. In one play, the season is material; in the other it is so metaphorical as to be generalised.
With Then the Snow Came director Jimmy Grimes has largely written his own script – its origins lie in Oscar Wilde’s fantasy for children The Happy Prince, about a prince’s statue that tells a swallow to take his precious parts and use them to alleviate poverty in the town.
Grimes has realised the story is not age-limited, especially when stripped to essentials and used as an increasingly apparent ingredient in stories from homeless people in West London; his own accidental wet December night on the streets doubtless adds authenticity.
Framed by a police-officer’s recollections (the fine Ed Bennett, who crops up as several people securely established in society), the action plays against the generosity of Wilde’s prince as homeless men from Liverpool and Middlesbrough are divided when one needs the other’s small store of money.
Daniel Cheyne’s Merseyside Stu, health clearly suffering, is realistically sympathetic in his brief moments of speech, apologetic he can’t afford to help, while Kieron Jecchinis gives Mickey moments of a survivor’s aggression. Eventually Wilde’s story takes the stage, pointing up the self-regard of local bigwigs, though a final reading seems an epilogue-like bolt-on.
Beware those who label their characters ‘Man’ or ‘Woman’. Norwegian playwright Jon Fosse is regarded across Europe as a leading dramatist. Measured by this latest instalment of bleakness to reach England, it’s hard to discern what all the Fosse is about.
A middle-aged businessman becomes attracted to an attractive young woman who accosts him as she staggers about the street, drunk, drugged or generally mentally unstable, obsessively labelling herself “your lady” – whatever that means. She has several bruises, but seems OK when they re-meet later.
Who she is and what happens is aptly reflected in Sam Dowson’s set of anonymous blocks. This isn’t richly ambiguous, just generalised, at least in a production which does little beyond getting the lines said.
Then The Snow Came:
Narrator: Ed Bennett.
Stu: Daniel Cheyne.
Mickey: Kieron Jecchinis.
Ben: Michael Smith.
Director: Jimmy Grimes.
Designer: Katy Mills.
Lighting: Stuart Burgess.
Man: Stuart Fox.
Woman: Jennifer Higham.
Director: Teunkie van der Sluijs.
Designer: Sam Dowson.
Lighting: Stuart Burgess.