Review: The Snow Goose

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NAF 2013. The Snow Goose directed by Jenine Collocott. The theatre production of The Snow Goose was inspired by a deep love and sentiment for this timeless story and the emotions it evokes. Born from a shared vision by the Kalk Bay Theatre production team of Simon and Helen Cooper, The Snow Goose became a reality through a creative collaboration with the two performers (James Cairns and Taryn Bennett) and director Jenine Collocott.

Emotion and remembrance are two central themes in The Snow Goose, which is running during the anniversary month of the WWII Dunkirk evacuation, where hundreds of English boats, including small pleasure craft, rescued over 330,000 soldiers from bombardment on the beaches and harbours of Dunkirk in France. This event, etched into English folk memory, forms the crux of this classic story by Paul Gallico.

Perhaps playing on the eliciting of emotion, much of The Snow Goose is experienced through the senses. The sounds linger in the mind. As the play opens, simple puppetry and clever sound create a movie montage that plays through the memories of peaceful boats rides, in stark contrast to that of war horrors of bombs and planes. The sound design, crafted by Peter Cornell, forms a thread that carries the audience’s emotion throughout, whether through the foreboding beep of radio announcements bringing war news or the fantasy soundscapes that make The Snow Goose feel like a children’s story for adults.
On the visual side, director Jenine Collocott has designed a series of delightful masks which give actors Cairns and Bennett a visual way to climb into the skin of each of their multiple characters. The masks are both unsettling and comedic and add a feeling of parable to the story.  Interestingly, the character of Fritha (Taryn Bennett) stays unmasked throughout, perhaps in recognition of her fresh-faced youth and her innocence that stays untouched by the passing years. The masks are a wonderful visual modality and add clear distinction to the characters, but they hint of a magical realism where in fact there is a story of tragic reality.

James Cairns proves himself once again to be a master of the character shift, evoking scorn and pity, laughter and tears in equal measure. Bennett’s Essex accent tends to stray northwards, and being surrounded by character roles makes the sweet-faced, understated Frith all the trickier to pull off, and Bennett succeeds in treading the line with a light step.

The Snow Goose opened in 2013 at the Grahamstown Festival to great reviews. It is an important, heartfelt story, put together by a fantastic creative team who know their way around the stage. With a minimal amount of cleverly placed props and intelligent lighting design the play takes the audience through a decade of friendships and unlikely romances, through sunny days on a lighthouse and dark days of war and loss. The Snow Goose might not rock your world, but it will definitely tug at your heart strings.

Marilu Snyders
The Snow Goose runs at Kalk Bay Theatre from 4 to 28 June 2014.

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