‘Feathers in the Snow’

‘Feathers in the Snow’ by Philip Ridley, was written for youngsters, but designed to take them from the often-overbearing protection of a home environment, and help them to face life as it really is. Born 1964 in the East End of London – Bethnal Green – it was at the time of the Kray family, the Cockney gangsters. Philip later wrote the screenplay and appeared in the film ‘Krays’, an enactment of their activities. He was also a very accomplished – but very controversial – artist, with art works of topics that make Lucian Freud look naïve. Ridley also wrote the hugely successful play, ‘Tender Napalm’.

This play is being presented by 2014 The Actors’ Hub graduating students. The Gap Course is a one-year programme, in a friendly atmosphere and led by dedicated, talented tutors. The course prepares students for performing arts auditions, for courses such as those offered by NIDA and WAAPA.

The two and a quarter-hour performances are at the Subiaco Arts Centre Studio, 180 Hamersley Road, Subiaco nightly at 7.30 pm (NOT at 8.00 pm as on some lists/ sites) until Saturday 1st November.

Amanda Crewes designed the simple but most effective set that consists of a dozen or so, large, different sized white boxes that act like a set of Cuisenaire Rods to create mountains, staircases, and piles of rocks. The back wall is a large white cyc.

        Fifteen nerdy scientists, wearing white lab-coats and black horn-rimmed spectacles, enter the stage. Their leader (Harrison Close) apologises for the fact that the actors’ bus has not arrived and that they are going to have to act the 70 characters with no costumes or props.

      A young girl (Ciara Taylor) is faced with a major decision, which of the two young men in love with her should she marry? She chooses the man that promises her happiness (Justin Gray) rather than the more athletic suitor (Adam Droppert). They are married and soon the wife is asking for the midwives (Angela Mahlatjie, Ashana Murphy and Sarah Cajaglis) to attend a birth. Her husband is excited, but when the baby arrives and is a ‘mere girl’, the father is furious. Another midwife (Jerry Bates) tries to pacify him without success. The baby hears this dissent and in the years to come, refuses to talk. Years later, this mute girl, Shylyla (Emma Harvey) is now a young woman.

      Despite all of her parent’s love, gifts and attention, Shylyla is still silent, and then one day her father finds a beautiful, multi-coloured feather. The girl is immediately reborn, happy and talking non-stop. However, the feather blows away and the girl regresses. When the father sets out to find another feather, he discovers that it is from the blazerbird (Nicholas Allen) that is guarded by a young Prince. In a scuffle with the father, the Prince is killed.

     The King (Harrison Close) and his distraught Queen (Crystal Della Posta) order the soldiers to search the town and find the stolen bird and capture the murderer. The head soldier (Sarah Vertigan) and her group of soldiers search Shylyla’s house and at first do not find the bird, however, on the persistence of one of the soldiers (Caitlin Gee) they eventually discover it.

     In the next village, two men, TwoTwo (Jordan Holloway) and his cousin (Quaid Kirchner) are plotting how they will marry into the royalty and gain all of the surrounding lands. The cousins engage in a war with the King.

     Who will win the war? What will happen to the loving happy people of the land?

Throughout the play, there is a live musical soundscape on piano and straight soprano sax, composed and played by award-winning musician, Tim Newhouse.

Director Amanda Crewes has thrown the cast into the deep end. There is the saying, never have children in a cast, but almost as bad is having to perform FOR children. Phil Ridley’s play is like a junior version of ‘Game of Thrones’, with death, destruction and all the loveable characters being massacred, sacrificed and dying by the dozen. The poster states ‘suitable for 7+’, but although some of the adults were cringing at certain situations, the kids seemed to be totally absorbed, unmoved and loved every minute.

Do not worry, it is not all doom and gloom, there are some very funny parts and even the darker scenes are presented light-heartedly. The lighting and sound effects (Jamie Davies) are bright, colourful and interesting. The cast does not slow for one second of the two, 1-hours acts. There is singing, dancing, synchronised choreography and energetic fight sequences – a huge amount of work has been demanded of the cast, but after all that is what they are there for!

There are numerous messages in this moral loaded storyline, such as the importance of family, belonging, compassion and companionship; and how occasionally we make wrong decisions.

The cast were wonderful, energetic, engaging and had conquered all of the different genres and methods for grabbing the audience’s attention. An interesting piece professionally presented.