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Review: ‘Snowflake’ is an emotional look at family strife

Christmas can be such a fraught time where family tension can undermine what is supposed to be a period of peace and love. In Mike Bartlett’s play Snowflake now on at the Pitt Street Theatre in Auckland, fractured family dynamics are on brilliant display. 

The setting is a church hall in the English city of Oxford on Christmas Eve. A large ‘welcome home’ hangs from the ceiling. There is a Christmas tree with presents under it, and ‘something’ draped in green fabric.  

A middle aged man called Andy (Michael Lawrence) enters, and though he is completely alone, he begins a long one-sided conversation with his daughter Maya (Clementine Mills).

Through this monologue, we learn Andy is a widower, and estranged from Maya. He has discovered she has returned to Oxford, but his attempts to get in touch with her have been unsuccessful. Clearly, something has damaged their relationship, but as yet, we don’t know what that is. 

In the second act of the play, Natalie (Layla Pitt), a young black woman, arrives in the hall – she is there to collect crockery, but soon begins questioning him about why he’s there and gets him to acknowledge some of what has transpired between him and Maya. In the process they spar over politics and other issues in a cleverly scripted and amusing way. 

In the third act, Maya herself arrives at the hall, and what follows is a deeply emotional clash between father and daughter. This part of the play really brings the generational divide to a climax. Each of them accusing the other of not understanding, not listening, and yet, both equally unaware that they are behaving the same way. 

There is deep hurt and misunderstanding in this family, but it is underpinned by deep love. The only way forward is for them to acknowledge both those things. 

Snowflake is a beautifully written mixture of charm and gentle humour that is not afraid to show the complex dynamics of family life and the dangers of repressed anger. It is a story brought to life by a very engaging cast that teaches us that family harmony is best achieved with honest communication and learning when to shut up and listen. 

Snowflake by Mike Bartlett

Direction from Paul Gittins

Performance by Michael Lawrence, Layla Pitt & Clementine Mills Pitt St Theatre, 78 Pitt St, Newton

23 November – 11 December 2022

Tickets or call 09 361 1000

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