Review: Snowflake, Kiln Theatre
PUBLISHED: 12:02 17 December 2019 | UPDATED: 12:03 17 December 2019
Mike Bartlett's Christmas play for adults is an intergenerational plea to listen to the voice of youth
With his Welcome Home sign and dickering Christmas lights, lonely, desperate Andy sits in an Oxfordshire community hall on Christmas Eve - the kind where people come together for zumba classes, baby sing and sign and cub scouts - hoping for a festive miracle.
Mike Bartlett's "Christmas play for adults" foregrounds the kind of inter-generational debate that we could all do with right now.
In the course of finding out why his teenage daugter Maya hasn't been in touch for three years, Andy will have to understand the current youthquake that's demanding urgent changes to old ways.
During an overlong first half monologue we discover that like many middle aged white men, he feels under fire, uncertain of correct terminology - and reluctant to part with nostalgic attachments to DVDs, old sit-coms and James Bond films.
But in yoking Andy's disquiet to a deep familial rift, Bartlett points out that it goes deeper than them/they pronouns, but in properly listening to the younger generation and being open to change.
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Instead of Maya, Andy gets garrulous Natalie, a mixed race Londoner here to pick up some crockery, who enlightens him on a few things.
It turns out that Maya left just after the Brexit vote, an both an in/out debate and an anecdote about Boris Johson and speaking truth to power bring this discussion bang up to date.
Even though the change and understanding is a one-way street, Clare Lizzimore tries to keep things even handed.
Elliot Levey's Andy is endearingly conflicted rather than repellant, his widowood curries sympathy, his take on Brexit is reasoned, and his concern that identity politics supplants collective class and economic struggles is fair enough.
It's a shame that the dialogue isn't always pin sharp, and that Amber James rushes her fences as Natalie with a hyperactive delivery that undermines some of her points. It's also a shame that we find out so little about her background - or about Ellen Robertson's wispy, anxious Maya who with her halo of white hair looks very like the snowflake of the title.
But the hopeful, tearful ending feels just about earned and not too manipulative - and in these depressing, divided times Snowflake's message of change and reconciliation may stand us in good stead for our own festive trek home to difficult discussions in fractured families.