The Snow Angel of Antarctica by British-Australian playwright Vicki Connerty is a quirky and deceptively simple story that hits a nerve when you least expect it.
Jimmy and Ellie are “womb mates” – twins born 10 minutes apart – but that’s where the similarity ends. He’s the self-proclaimed “funny one,” she’s the not-so-self-proclaimed “boring one”. He works in a Harry Potter shop while harboring a childhood dream to visit Antarctica to pat the penguins. He wants to quit his job and use some of Nan’s inheritance to buy a ticket. Ellie, on the other hand, thinks the trip is a colossal waste of money; she’s far more in favour of using the inheritance for something useful, like education, and besides, can suggest a million other places that would be warmer and more tourist-friendly.
Their conflict sounds fairly straightforward until we dive deeper into the story and find out Jimmy has cancer and doesn’t want to go alone. Ellie, ever stoic and repressed in her grief, eventually warms up to the idea that her brother should make that pilgrimage after all. She begrudgingly goes with him, a misgiving of sorts which seems to escalate their differences…until the final scene of the play which is unexpectedly cathartic as the present circles back to the beginning.
The play had a few COVID delays getting to the Factory Theatre in Marrickville, but it’s a good egg that has incubated well. The play was originally written as a single scene for Short & Sweet, the most popular short play festival in the world, winning a slew of awards. It was then picked up by a theatre company in the UK to be reworked as a full length play, prompting Connerty to draw inspiration from her own life to write the back story. Like her character Jimmy, she has also had cancer, and said she wanted to write about the subject in a way that is often taboo, recalling examples of her own family’s gallows humour.
The lead actors (Sarah Moon as Ellie and Cooper Mortlock as Jimmy) effortlessly shift the play back and forth, riding the sea of emotions with restraint that makes the ending all the more unnerving and tear-jerking.
Director and producer Alexandra Chambers loved the Short & Sweet version of the play and knew it had potential to reach an Australian audience. “Alexandra suggested a few changes to the script so it would make sense to an Australian crowd,” Connerty explains.
Far from being maudlin and melodramatic, the play is touching and authentic, as it navigates the audience through an allegorical voyage that deftly taps all the emotional sensors. It’s a timely reminder that it’s okay to be honest, especially when confronted by loss and grief and the vulnerability of being human.
Review date: 19 March
Playwright: Vicki Connerty
Cast: Sarah Moon (Ellie), Cooper Mortlock (Jimmy)
Produced and directed by Alexandra Chambers.
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