Sunday, 9 December 2012

Feathers in the Snow - review

Written by: Christianna Mason (@Christianna_L_M)

Southwark Playhouse, London

Feathers in the Snow is a fantastic title, but it’s a shame they only spend all of five minutes there, or indeed anywhere else. It’s as if the writer, Philip Ridley, has had one too many good ideas and then tried to fit them all into one play.

Photo: Bronwen Sharp
In fact there are so many stories that it leaves the audience somewhat bewildered. However, the play starts off nicely with a strong comical style, minimal set and beautiful lighting design. The fables roll into one another, overlapping seamlessly. Then the second half shifts into an entirely different approach with the same actors playing the same characters for rather a long time. This culminates to some sadly obvious messages about war and religion, and an out of place sing-a-long style finale, complete with backing track (something the Southwark ‘Young Company’ chorus members had been doing very well without).

Photo: Bronwen Sharp
The large chorus features heavily, with great voices booming out a cappella songs and there is some very promising acting talent to look out for. It is evident that the initial concepts for the overall staging have some frustratingly good potential but it isn’t always very slick. With such a sizeable cast the choreographed sequences need to be tighter. The leads were superbly cast and perform with enthusiasm and comic timing. The comedy itself was quite pantomimic and uses a lot of dame humour to great effect.  Addressing the audience directly, they certainly grab your attention and entertain both adults and children alike. A frequent problem with ‘family shows’ is that they can come off as patronising or aimed solely at children, but this production does not shy away from difficult topics and gets across their ideas eloquently and simply. I would certainly encourage adults to see this, even if they’re not bringing children. However, some pacing is needed; they rip through the stories at such speed that the beautiful poignancy of certain moments, such as a boys’ cousin dying while they are ‘playing at war’, is lost. It becomes fast to the point of being hurried.

There is very much a story-telling feel to it as the characters recite passages and narrate each other’s movements. An interesting choice and one that really makes this production stand out. This style carries us through the play and helps with the consistency. Overall an enjoyable evening with some fantastic acting and imagery; be prepared to leave slightly dizzy from the amount of stories and characters.

This production runs until 5 January 2013. 

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