Cancel culture, eh? What are we like? Always cancelling people for… things! It’s a knotty issue, that’s for sure. If only there were a play to neatly summarise our collective feelings on the topic with the added drama of a potential murder.
Enter Snowflakes, which occupies the intimate upstairs room of the Park Theatre for the next three weeks. The writing debut of Dissident Theatre co-founder Robert Boulton, who also stars, the show grapples with our societal, er, situation with a deliberate lack of subtlety. But though the set-up is entertaining enough and pulled off with a decent dose of charm, the story never quite grasps anything new or interesting enough to distinguish itself from the hundreds of similar musings on the same theme.
Snowflakes, then, finds a reactionary newspaper columnist trapped in a hotel room with the employees of a new start-up. What does the start-up do, you ask? They kill people – well, they stage public votes to kill people on the internet, which, as the characters acknowledge, usually means killing people.
It’s a classic Black Mirror-style set-up, and there’s a reason those sorts of stories strike a chord. In fact, some of Snowflakes’ most chilling moments involve references to a world outside the hotel room – where the company the would-be assassins belong to seems to have a sort of unspoken notoriety.
For the most part, though, the topics of conversation are pretty vague. There’s a lot of hand-wringing and angry theorising about the state of the online age. Still, without the compelling nub of an original metaphor to hide behind, the result never quite gets under the skin of the issue proper.
That is a shame because there’s plenty in Snowflakes that shows much promise. Moments of deliciously dark comedy stand out among the theorising, and that the play keeps its momentum for most of the 1hr 40ish runtime is a credit to both the director (blank) and the actors, all of whom approach the material with gusto, even if the characters themselves sometimes seem to be trying to take on too many narrative roles at once.
For example, one of the assassins, Sarah, flips between the room’s moral centre, cheeky provocateur and true believer in the cause, sometimes in a few minutes. Rather than showing natural complexity, it can all feel a bit discombobulating. It’s unclear where her character arc will go when her starting point changes every few minutes.
There’s still plenty to appreciate about Snowflakes, and as a debut play, it is undoubtedly an assured work. But it suffers from having not much to add to an already saturated conversation. Sure, appreciating the issue is far from black and white, but we’ve seen plenty of shades of grey before. It might be time to expand the palette.
Snowflakes is playing at the Park theatre from the 12th April – 6th May 2023