Rory (Gemma Barnett) decides to trek to the North Pole (there are five, did you know) with her dad’s ashes. It was a trip he planned for the two of them before he died.

But Rory is a teenager, grounded for her age yet ultimately still a child. A tall order, but what an adventure. Barnett presents herself with a realistic comedy, the slightest of smirks on her lips as she candidly narrates a tale that starts with a funeral. There’s a hint of youthful arrogance and superiority in her tone, warming and relatable. We all thought we knew everything at that age. We were invincible.

Vault Festival 2018 Hundred Words Snow

Gemma Barnett

A Hundred Words For Snow shows the human feats of strength and pluck that come with determination and belief in a cause. Tatty Hennessy writes slowly but with intent, describing thoughts, facts and narrative in detail. The story stalls in a number of points, but it’s a colourful picture of words that Hennessy paints. She uses the colour white through and through, it shines with a brilliance that becomes evocative and breath-taking.

Because ultimately, Rory is trekking to a point of absolute nothing, something she reminds us of throughout the show. There is nothing remarkable to mark any of the five North Poles – they’re a series of blank canvasses that extend for miles all around.

People died finding this nothing

But Barnett injects importance in the mission, despite knowing that the final destination isn’t one to behold. A Hundred Words For Snow is a show about the journey.

Vault Festival 2018 Hundred Words Snow

Gemma Barnett

Hennessy writes an informative piece, one that Lucy Jane Atkinson’s direction transforms all too often into a lecture. It’s fascinating to hear about the explorers, to feel the passion that flows down from the deceased father through the influential daughter. But like the ice that they both describe, this deluge of narrative slows the journey’s pace, at times to a crawl. Atkinson ensures that the story never stops completely, but it feels as though we stray too far off track at times, as Rory is overcome with behaviours typical of a teenager on a voyage of self-discovery. Some of these diversions are welcome breaks, others make us start to lose our way.

But there is a point at which A Hundred Words For Snow starts to crystallise and take shape. Like the ever-shifting ice flows, it eventually manoeuvres itself into something poignant and powerful. It revels in the silences, the awkward pauses and emotional voids. Atkinson knows how to let this show breathe, settle and become still.

Vault Festival 2018 Hundred Words Snow

Gemma Barnett

The ending, while touching and well scripted by Hennessy, misses urgency in its build-up. It feels as though Rory appears to fail all too quickly, such that we don’t have time to process her frustration. But then the full weight of the loss bears down upon us, propelling itself to all four corners of the theatre as Barnett emotionally scatters her father to his final resting place. The dust settles, and we are reminded that this is a voyage of discovery, not one of realisation.

Love is life’s snow

 

 

★★★☆☆

A Hundred Words For Snow runs as part of the VAULT Festival until 11 March 2018. For further information, please visit the venue website.