Snowflake, Brighton Fringe

By Luisa De la Concha Montes

Snowflake is a one-woman show written and performed by Hanna Winter. Presented as a physical monologue, it tries to unpack the personal impact of intergenerational trauma through the lens of comedy and absurdism. Through continuous audience interaction, the boundaries between fiction and reality are constantly being blurred, creating a show that ultimately ridicules self-indulgent performative art.

The main character’s internal thoughts, insecurities and fears are overlapped with a variety of movements that include ridiculous scenarios, such as Winter screaming her lungs out whilst running outside the theatre. The first part of the show is the weakest, as it feels like the character is struggling to get to the core of her trauma. Instead, she invests in a long rant about her own failings, insecurities and the emphasis on certain societal expectations such as marriage, motherhood and professional success.

In this part of the play, we perceive her as a fragile yet outspoken individual with so much to unpack that when she tries to do it, it comes across as uncontrollable and unpolished. This is not a bad thing in itself; it is evident her trauma made the character this way. However, at times it feels that by trying to process so much in so little time, the audience was left more confused than intended.

It is in the second part of the story where we get to the core of her fears, but also to where the value of the story lies. The use of props in this part is both extremely useful and clever, as it allows us to properly see how her pain essentially stems from her difficult relationship with her parents. As she speaks to the teddy bear representing her dad and the mannequin as her mum, she slowly discovers how her traumas are really reminiscent of theirs.

Also in this part, she briefly embodies her grandmother in such an honest and vulnerable way that it is breath-taking. It is this single scene that allows us to understand the underlying complexity of the topic at hand – how trauma is passed on from generation to generation, sitting uncomfortably amongst us, in a similar way in which Winter sits uncomfortably amongst the audience at one point. However, despite feeling like the essence of the story, this fragment is extremely short, making the audience wonder whether she is glossing over it by focusing so much on the comedy and absurdity.

The process of opening up in front of the audience at times falls short simply because the story feels afraid of itself. This leads to a script that leaves no space for emotion, just laughter. A main concern with the work is that it raises the question of whether comedy is the best way to approach the topic. For instance, the scene about migration, where she performs a magic trick and uses fluffy snowflakes from a suitcase to exemplify what happens to refugees when they try to migrate to Europe, is quite uncomfortable. Perhaps that was the point but within the context of the play, which is not about the migration crisis, this little dig at the Home Office is out of place.

Revealing trauma in front of an audience can be a messy process, and to bring the audience into a story of that calibre is no easy task. In this sense, Winter’s clowning and improvisation skills allow her to ease the audience into the narrative with extreme dexterity. However, plot-wise, the play leaves a lot of the topics unsolved. Perhaps more focus on the second part of the story would allow us to dig deep into her and our emotions rather than spend most of the time wondering where the narrative was leading.

Snowflake runs 21-25 June at The Space, London.

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