The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes

Nina Berry

Live Theatre

The Studio, Live Theatre, Newcastle

From 08 December 2016 to 17 December 2016

Review by Peter Lathan

Rosie and Charlie are in Heaton Park. She’s around 7, wearing a yellow coat, and is rather hesitant. He’s 9, wearing a blue coat and a woolly hat that’s a bit too small for him, and is making the biggest snowball in the world, ever. As the snow drifts down they meet and talk, and she tells him how every snowflake is unique; no matter how many billions there are, none are the same.

So begins a relationship which…

...is like a snowflake, which starts high up in the air as a particle of dust which attracts water droplets which freeze around it. As it falls through the various humidity and temperature layers of the atmosphere, it gathers more droplets which in their turn freeze, ending up in that snowflake’s unique shape.

They get older, meet numerous times. For a while, they are separated in distance, as far apart as Camden Town and the Chilly Road (Chillingham Road in Heaton, Newcastle, that is), then meet again, and all the time their experiences are giving their lives a different shape, changing their relationship just like a snowflake drifting through the atmosphere.

There are infinite possibilities: they—and we—can see them as they are—or might be, perhaps?—in their teens, twenties, forties, sixties, even eighties. And in the real world (if that’s what it actually is, for that’s what it seems to be) she goes to university in London and becomes a scientist and he becomes a typical “Toon” lad, living in a flat in the Chilly Road and getting pretty “mortal” on a regular basis.

The Terminal Velocity of Snowflakes is thought-provoking and deeply moving. For all its scientific underpinnings, it is a beautifully poetic piece of theatre. It is writer Nina Berry’s first full-length play and certainly fulfils the promise of her earlier, shorter work (for example, Words with Love as part of Rendezvous at Live and Paper Walls in The Rooms at Alphabetti)—and, incidentally, justified an earlier comment of mine. I had said that she is “one of the best young writers working in the region” and when I saw it quoted in the programme, I have to admit to being just a little worried that it might come back and bite me! It didn’t, not by a long way.

It is performed by two former members of Live’s Youth Theatre, Dean Bone (Charlie) and Heather Carroll (Rosie), who are both already making names for themselves. Carroll, for example, won a Journal Culture Award for her performance in Cloud Nine’s Death at Dawn in 2014.

Their performances are sensitive and, in their depictions of their characters at different ages, perceptive and accurate, which may well be due in some measure to the direction of Live’s Artistic Director Max Roberts and its Creative Producer Graeme Thompson.

The set, by Luke W Robson, made mainly of paper, is simple but very effective, and is given additional impact by Nick Rogerson’s lighting.

There is limited ticket availability on Wednesday 15 December, otherwise it’s “Returns Only.” Perhaps Live might consider a revival soon? It certainly deserves to be seen by a wider audience.