Review – We know now snowmen exist ****

We know now snowman exist has a great tag line – Five girls. One tent. No survivors. How can you resist?

Based on a true incident in Russia in 1959 which is still unexplained and which includes the final journal entry from the dead girls – “We know now snowmen exist” – this play brings the story up to date and sets it on a Scottish mountain. The women in this case are on a charity hike but are having trouble getting in touch with mountain rescue, with whom they are meant to check-in every day by radio.

Their isolation pushes them ever closer and exposes fractures in their relationships, revealed as different stories about their backgrounds are told. Strange numbers then start coming over the radio which increase the tension. Is someone sending them messages or just messing with them? Don’t expect a neat resolution or explanation of what’s happening or how the women come to meet their ends. That’s the context for the play, but not its driver.

The dialogue is real, honest and funny. They talk about going out in the snow for a wee, wonder how it would be to have a penis and be able to write their names in the snow – and that’s just for starters. The emotional ground touched on, if not covered in depth, is huge. There’s self harm, alcoholism, religious repression and suicide. That’s not to say it’s a difficult piece to enjoy. It’s not – because these people are great company. We soon feel as though we’re out on the mountainside with them. We’re invested in their situation and their lives.

This is helped considerably by the staging in The Space. Already an intimate venue, it’s played in the round and there are no wings. When anyone leaves the tent they step between the front rows and lurk in the dark corners before returning. Seeing performances in close up like this is meat and drink for The Space. And once you’ve experienced it, somehow peering at a distant stage through a proscenium arch is never as satisfying. Being this close requires intense and committed performances from the actors, and that’s what you get here. That, and a plot worthy of Inside No. 9, ensures a chilling, funny and revealing evening.

We now know snowmen exist is at The Space until Saturday 23 March 2019.

 

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