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The Melting of a Single Snowflake

Libby Hall
Salford Arts Theatre
Salford Arts Theatre
to

Libby Hall is writer-in-residence at Salford Arts Theatre and has worked with their Young Performers Company in devising The Melting of a Single Snowflake. A cynic might wonder if the need to devise speaking parts for 11 actors from the company contributed to the disjointed structure of the play.

Towards the end of school term, a group of pupils wander around a vandalised property. They buy and sell drugs, mourn the death of a popular local shopkeeper and gossip but keep returning to a subject that cannot be ignored. A fellow pupil, Sam, has gone missing along with his dog and the pupils have a range of theories as to what happened. The most credible is that Sam has been killed in revenge for his brother reneging on a promise to the local gang. But one member of the group knows the truth.

It takes a long time—until well into the second act—to determine the nature of The Melting of a Single Snowflake. The first act seems like a state of the nation play aimed at teenagers. Director Libby Hall sets a very sombre tone. There is a slow opening to mournful backing music and radio broadcasts about knife crime and environmental protests echoing around the theatre reminding the audience of the grim nature of contemporary life for teenagers.

The first act comprises a series of conversations that seem unrelated. There are shocking moments—the revelation that an unrepentant drug pusher has the decency to be upset at the death of a shopkeeper—but without a focal point it is hard to make a connection between the various plot strands. One half expects the play to develop along the lines of Lord of the Flies but Hall has a surprise in store. In the second half it becomes apparent the play is actually a revenge tragedy. At this point, the purpose of earlier developments becomes clear as, more significantly, does Hall’s ambitious theme of how the thoughtless actions of an individual can impact upon the wider community.

Libby Hall has a good ear for dialogue—"This is my ‘resting bitch’ face". Many of the storylines in the play have the ring of truth including a character so traumatised by Sam’s fate she turns vegan as eating any meat reminds her of human flesh. The thriller aspects of the play are very well handed and the motivation of the murderer is credible. Even so, one cannot help but feel the play would have worked better with a few clues in the first half to help the audience understand its nature and develop suspense and tension.

Members of the Young Performers Company appreciate the vital importance of vocal clarity and do not confuse it with volume. There are strong performances but not all of the company have developed the vocal inflection needed to make jokes completely successful.

The disjointed structure of The Melting of a Single Snowflake limits it success as a thriller but the potential for further development—with revisions to the first act—is clear.

Reviewer: David Cunningham