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Snap Dragon

Written & Directed by Tim Blackwell
Camden People's Theatre
(2008)

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Snap Dragon seems to examine that age old question; what is the purpose of life? However, perhaps a more pressing question would be; what is the purpose of this play?

Set in December 1950, two co-stars, Audrey (Jackie Fielding) and Gavin (Stuart McPherson), pass the time between their matinee and evening performance. Now, I have always had issues with plays that draw attention to the conventions of performance. I neither find it clever nor ironic to watch actors, in character, talking about acting on stage and Snap Dragon did nothing to convince me otherwise.

As a regular theatre goer I at least have some interest in a discussion about theatre and the world of make-believe; although I'd rather that debate take place off stage. However, for the average person who probably attends the theatre less than once a month I would imagine that when they go to see a play they are not interested in having the artifice of acting dissected in front of them.

As Audrey and Gavin discuss themselves, the point of theatre is to provide escapism. Although by constantly drawing attention to it, it actually makes escapism fairly improbable. Perhaps this is the point that Tim Blackwell is trying to make: is it actually possible to hold up a mirror to nature? Whether it is or isn't, it is hardly a ground-breaking concept or worth dedicating over half a play to discussing it. Snap Dragon went around in circles as it explored the same questions repeatedly. Can you act an emotion if you have never experienced it in real life? By portraying a character on stage does that mean an audience member need not experience certain emotions themselves; rather they can live life vicariously through the actor? Do we ever really stop acting? When on stage is that not merely an extension of the performance that is life? All interesting questions but surely there is a more subtle way in which to explore them?

With all that said, despite the fact I found the content of Snap Dragon somewhat tedious, I very much enjoyed the style of writing. Blackwell captured the 1950's perfectly and his dialogue was both beautifully prim and witty. Fielding was divine as the jaded, fading star trying to seduce her youthful and credulous co-star. McPherson had a lovely break in his voice, which worked wonderfully to emphasise his naivety. Snap Dragon could have easily become a Noël Coward inspired farce with its clipped RP,but the dialogue was very natural and flowed effortlessly. If only Blackwell had applied the same ease to the content of his writing. Instead Snap Dragon draws to an end in much the same way as it started, leaving you unsure as to whether you have just watched, a play, a play within a play or simply a discussion of a play.

Reviewer: Rachel Sheridan