Feathers in the Snow, Southwark Playhouse, London
Wednesday 12 December 2012
Philip Ridley's epic fairy-tale is the last production to be presented in Southwark Playhouse's current venue under the arches of London Bridge Station before it moves to temporary premises at the Elephant and Castle. As a swansong, it is therefore doubly apt.
In recent years, Ridley has enjoyed a rich association with this theatre (where his plays Tender Napalm and Shivered were brilliantly unveiled) and this latest piece – which is aimed at a family audience – is itself partly about the necessity of moving forward in hope to find new homes.
Feathers in the Snow is also a further instance of Ridley's preoccupation with the power – for good and ill – of story-telling in our attempts to make sense of experience. What's new here, though, is the spirit of antic knockabout playfulness – splendidly captured in David Mercatali's production which is performed with terrific animation and mischievous zest by a multi-tasking cast comprised of six highly engaging principals and seventeen members of the Young Company Ensemble.
The proceedings – which spans five hundred years – begin with a fateful decision about a marriage partner and the resulting story of Shylala (Deelvya Meir) a young girl who is frozen in trauma until thawed by the touch of a magic red feather from the Blazerbird. But then the feather floats off and she relapses, prompting her father (Craig Vye – who brings a delightfully self-parodying hunky vigour to a variety of key roles) to go off in quest of the fluffy creature.
The best of intentions backfire, however, leading to a chain-narrative involving war, religious fanaticism, Mutually Assured Destruction and (a bit cloyingly at the end) the optimism of a battered but unbowed group of refugees.
This isn't your usual festive fare and there are stretches in the second half, which explores the mixed consequences of “belief”, that may seem obvious to adults and a bit baffling to children.
But the production is expertly attuned to the resilience in Ridley's writing that offsets the harshness of the subject matter - its spring recurring rhythms and its larky knowingness about narrative tropes, as when Adam Venus's adorable Blazerbird announces that “I'm not going to be around for much longer so make the most of it” or when a farcical succession of Official Historians from two rival nations (all played by the same pair of actors) bicker over several centuries about their approved versions of the “truth”.
To 5 January; 0207 407 0234
Glastonbury Roger Daltrey and Pete Townshend will perform with Paul Weller as their warm-up act
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Qataris pledge to expand Canary Wharf
- 2 #JeSuisEd: People share photos of themselves eating awkwardly in solidarity with Labour leader
- 3 Women think Irish men are the sexiest, survey finds
- 4 Florida couple forced to register as sex offenders for having sex on public beach
- 5 Watch eerie drone footage of destroyed building in Stalingrad
Penny Dreadful, series 2 episode 1, review: It is still gloriously silly
Top Gear: Jodie Kidd, Philip Glenister and Guy Martin 'in advanced talks' to replace Jeremy Clarkson and co
Eurovision 2015: What date and time is the song contest and who are the favourites to win?
They came in with William Caxton's printing press, but typefaces still matter in the digital age
Fifty Shades of Grey movie shows first sex scene 'after 40 minutes'
In defence of liberal democracy
General Election 2015: Post-election 'shambles' looms as 70 per cent of voters say SNP 'should not be able to veto UK government policies'
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
General election live: SNP suspends two members for disrupting Labour rally
General Election 2015: Sturgeon claims Scots 'appalled' by Ed Miliband's refusal to work with SNP