Sasha C Damjanovski, presented by Simon James Collier in association with the Jack Studio Theatre
Brockley Jack Studio Theatre
A man and a woman sit beside each other at a desk, she reads out a string of data to him, he keyboards it onto a computer, a tedious routine, though its references to cases under consideration and contracts terminated suggests some system of strict control and the yellow and black tape that marks out all elements of both set and seating emphasises that we are in a world of control and restriction.
Although conversing only with the data and its repetition, this couple, Martha (Laura Bush) and Jeremy (Simon Desborough), manager to conduct something much more like a conversation, and one with romantic overtones. It is rather like the actor demonstrating that they can make the telephone book sound interesting (and in fact this play follows on from a short film the author/director made which used a phone book as its text).
Data recording is not this couple's main employment. It is 2061 and they are employed in the development of an apparatus called HDR747 (it rhymes with heaven, the copywriter's say), a machine that stimulates, facilitates and records happy dreams. It is a world where you need a licence to have a baby or become a beggar, a life of quotas and targets and these two are not reaching theirs, they are the top two in the under 2% achievement group. They have developed a recorder but seven out of ten people have nightmares, not happy dreams, and that won't do. Boss John (Jonathan Leinmuller) is turning on the pressure for he is being put on the line as well.
With Liz Jadav and Imogen Vinden-North as a competitive pair of highly wrought bureaucrats (one tells the other to 'burn in cow hell') and Ashley Bates and Vinden-North as a pair of paramedics who, though loathing each other's guts, have a working partnership that hits efficiency targets, we get a glimpse of other layers of this society, of competitiveness and insecurity within a system based on everybody buying into the idea that it ensures they are safe and happy..
But Jeremy is beginning to think that it is alright to have bad dreams - after all, they are not real - and to wonder whether you could have camera-free toilets, be allowed to use matches, eat fresh vegetables and not be in danger. Will they, can they stand up to the system? Is there a place for love? What happens if they reject the communication or surveillance device they take with them everywhere?
Project Snowflake is not a play you have to worry about understanding. Orwell and Huxley were exploring mind control and state orthodoxy many decades ago and Damjanovski does not have any significantly new polemic to offer but he displays a considerable theatrical flare and that is what makes this and interesting evening. It is one of those occasions when a writer directing his own play seems absolutely right for he knows exactly what he wants and has clearly enthused his cast to give committed and powerfully played performances. His collaborators - designer David Shields, Anna Sbokou, lighting designer and Matt Hall and Nikola Kodjabashia contributing sound and music - all work together to create a level of production you rarely see on the fringe theatre circuit. There is an attention to detail which is typical of the work of its producer.
Until 23rd April 2011
Reviewer: Howard Loxton