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Theatre Snowflake, Kiln Theatre London

Mike Bartlett's Christmas cracker an antidote for post-election blues

THERE was a danger that the restaging of Mike Bartlett’s Snowflake could suffer from a sense of outdated despondency, focusing as it does on the familial tensions resulting from the EU referendum.

But, a year on from its initial outing at Oxford’s Old Fire Station, its healing power remains undiminished and it finds new resonance as the toxic dust of the latest vote begins to settle.

Its first half is wholly devoted to the twitchy self-loathing of the lonely forty-something Andy (Elliot Levey), who has evidently not recovered from losing his wife to cancer and has resorted to blaming the “creeping collapse of human dignity” for the estrangement of his daughter Maya (Ellen Robertson).

Levey’s masterful delivery of a lengthy monologue is saved from being somewhat tedious by the abundant discontent and hilarity he brings to its delivery.

Having not heard from Maya for three years following a Brexit bust-up, he has resorted to a “big Christmas olive branch” by decorating the “neutral ground” of the local village hall in Oxfordshire with fairy lights and a welcome home banner in the faint hope she’ll return.

But before she does, in a scenario akin to Inspector Goole in JB Priestly’s An Inspector Calls, Natalie (Amber James) arrives to deliver a few home truths.

Once the scab of Brexit differences is picked away, the deeper wounds of a father-daughter relationship reveal themselves and the gutsy Natalie proves to be the catalyst for slightly predictable change. Her character is possibly rather too angelic but Bartlett gives us just enough of her fragility to keep her human.

Jeremy Herbert’s evocative set celebrates not just the role of the village hall in British life but the life and history of 269 Kilburn High Road, previously the Tricycle and now the Kiln Theatre.

It’s the perfect setting for a Christmas cracker, complete with a few bad jokes and a meaningful underlying motto — dismissing people rather than listening to them only comes back to bite you.

If only the shadow cabinet had realised that a little earlier.

Runs until January 25, box office: kilntheatre.com

 

 

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