Dayna Lea Hoffman in A Hundred Words for Snow. Photo by Epic Photography
I’m not sure what adjectives to use to describe the current Northern Light Theatre production. Because I don’t want to diminish its significance and power if I call it charming, satisfying, thoughtful, or delightful. But it is all of those things, too.
Tatty Hennessy’s script is a more realistic narrative than many of the works Northern Light brings us. Its 15yo narrator (Dayna Lea Hoffman) is Rory, a recently-bereaved 15yo Londoner, relating her experiences and observations in a tone both unique and familiar. After her father’s funeral, she notes the problem of her father’s ashes being in an urn on the kitchen table and her mother being disinclined to do anything about this immediately – so she gets the idea of taking the urn on an adventure that the father, a geography teacher and armchair explorer, had daydreamed about with her and fantasy-planned in a notebook. Of course! She will borrow her mother’s credit card and go scatter the ashes at the North Pole – this makes complete sense to her.
As you should expect from a Northern Light show, brilliantly-executed design elements enhance the narrative. Alison Yanota is credited as production designer, taking care of set, costume, and lighting. Matt Schuurman designed projections on the floor, and Daniela Fernandez was sound designer. Trevor Schmidt directed. The performance is done in the round – I picked a side randomly and did not feel like there was any advantage to being on any side.
The script said some things about grief and about growing up that I am still thinking about. In particular, the concept of trying on grief responses to find what felt appropriate. I also really appreciated that the writer didn’t punish the teenage girl for not thinking things through and for trusting the people she met. As I think I’ve mentioned before in this blog, I’m tired of stories where teenage girls (and, by extension, the audience) are “taught a lesson” by having their risk-taking and initiative result in disasters, whether physical, social, sexual, or legal. Rory’s quest didn’t work the way she’d thought it should – but it still worked out.
Northern Light Theatre requires its patrons to wear masks in the Fringe Studio Theatre – and in the performances I’ve attended this season I’ve seen 100% compliance with this. The play runs until Saturday May 6th, and tickets are available here. I recommend it highly.