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Haunting Humanity: The Snow Dragons

17 February 2017

The Snow Dragons

 by Lizzie Nunnery

RSS Senior Youth Group, Mary Wallace Theatre, Twickenham, until 19th February

Review by Eleanor Marsh


The Snow Dragons has been commissioned for and is being presented as part of the National Theatre’s Connections programme, which is an excellent outreach to young people, giving them the opportunity to perform brand new work under the auspices of a major theatrical institution.

Director Katie Abbott and her Senior Youth Group at RSS have done an excellent job of bringing to life realistic characters in a somewhat mythical and whimsical “between world”, redolent of Norse mythology but with a storyline horribly relevant today.   The audience were asked to constantly question whether we were watching real events, a children’s game, or fantasy and mythology.  As the play progresses it becomes clear that the events are all too real and the elements of fantasy fade into the background in favour of the harsh reality of modern warfare.

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Photographs by Christina You

The play’s plot is apparently based on a true story but, try as I might, I’ve not been able to find details of this, which is a shame – there were many young people in the audience and this could have offered them a golden opportunity to engage them with some real history.

To say the set was captivating would be an understatement .  It evoked  both the fantasy world of Narnia in its mountainous winter landscape and  the more real idea of The Lord of the Flies with the makeshift camp and cabin.  Costumes, too were excellent – I particularly liked the tree camouflage and the Queen’s other-worldly sparkle and furs, which helped to blur the lines between reality and fantasy. 

The use of music in the play is extremely clever and the choice of the haunting modern folk melodies, that would not be out of place on the closing credits of Wallander, was inspired.  I do not know whether this music is part of the original piece or something added in for this production but either way it worked beautifully and although they were not always confident there were some lovely singing voices within the cast.  Special mentions must go to George Worledge as Christi who played a mean guitar  – often “on the move” , whilst participating in the physical theatre that this production used so effectively; and Henry Miller, whose soulful cello playing added even more atmosphere to the evening.  Anna Watson held her own as the Queen, performing the only “stand alone” song of the evening in a haunting style that was a hybrid of Katie Melua and Bat for Lashes.

And so to the actors.  This was a true ensemble piece with every cast member playing a key role and having impact.  In fact the performance was at its strongest when all the cast were onstage together.  The “leader of the pack”, Raggi was played with style and panache by Ella Jarvis.  Ella has a natural authority that came across well on stage and she was totally believable.  I have to confess to being a little surprised, though, when she announced that she was the poor girl from the wrong side of the tracks; there was nothing rough around this very neat and tidy lady’s edges, so the grammatically incorrect phrases that were written for the character did not quite ring true. 

Much of the interaction between characters was  very nicely played out, particularly the relationships  between the brothers Odd and Harri (Adam Green and Dominic Upton respectively) and although time and word count do not allow me to mention all of the actors individually, without exception they all added something distinctive about their character that made them that little bit more believable.  And not just the main protagonists of the group of “children” – the talking trees added the element of Greek chorus to the proceedings and the non-speaking but truly terrifying soldiers who brought about the demise of the group were all very effective.

There were, however, times that it was difficult to understand what was happening in the storyline because of poor diction.  Drawing as it does from  a culture of storytelling the play relies a lot on the characters literally telling the narrative.  Poor diction did, unfortunately, get in the way of the plotline on occasion, but this may well have been first night nerves and the sheer enthusiasm and energy on stage more than made up for any shortcomings.

In all this was a really enjoyable evening’s entertainment as well as being both moving and thought provoking.    The programme note mentions that the play is “timeless” and there is a well-worn phrase  “those that do not learn history are doomed to repeat it” .  How apt it was, then that this group chose to collect for Syrian refugees this week.   Congratulations to all involved for sharing with us both your talent and your humanity.

Eleanor Marsh

February 2017

Editor’s Note:  This RSS Senior Youth Group production of The Snow Dragons tours to The Albany Theatre, Deptford on Saturday 13th May. 

 

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From → Drama, Reviews

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