With no plot surprises Snowbound’s startling language and strongly moving performances are like arrows finding their mark.
This is the story of a woman who is not there. Tom’s mother died long ago leaving him to parent his siblings: rake thin media blonde Sally (Sarah Beck Mather) who has flounced off to London, and autistic Alex, needing Tom’s permanent care. The Mother’s doctor becomes extended family, to the increasing agitation of his wife, and when Tom finds love with Mary she too is drawn into the aftermath of lies and love.
As Alex’s therapeutic use of a camcorder turns in to a work for savvy Sally to exploit his material is flashed upon the set; vox pops on the subject of Love. Love, is the play’s theme also; how it can freeze and incapacitate, hold people hostage in the snow, and how only Love can set you free. In Ciaran McConville’s prose this has never sounded less banal. Lines reach out and squeeze the heart: “There is a sadness that sits next to joy and watches,” “You talk about grief like it’s something you can put on your CV.” “I could see her sadness. In the corner of her eye. Like a bruise.”
The scenes between doughty, damaged Tom (Sam Hazeldine) and Alex (Karl Davies) - flexed, wrought and earnest down to his very toes - are wonderfully affecting, funny and compelling. With a time-span of a decade, Davies is particularly subtle in charting Alex’s increased confidence and physical maturity throughout. Together they achieve a familial sense that Sarah Beck Mather does not share and not wholly by design. Although the doctor’s storyline seems too tangential, Deborah Thomas shines with quality as his desperately glamorous, enervated wife.
Does it need to be staged, however? Frequent scene changes and the passing of the years make for some clunky staging and Samantha Potter lets some scenes meander. Perhaps the language and even the performances would be better served by a rainy afternoon slot on Radio 4?
At any rate, Debut Theatre Co. should be proud. For a jaded, mid-week West End audience to emerge uncertainly, blinking into the light of the bar, wiping tears from their eyes is a testament to Snowbound. Who knows, it might even be a testament to Love.