First Snow is a politically charged work between the National Theatre of Scotland and THÉÂTRE PÀP AND HÔTEL-MOTEL. Focusing on the feelings and emotions conjured by the failure of independence movements, both in Scotland and Quebec, a hard aggressive play has emerged.
The play will defy anyone to leave without a thousand thoughts buzzing around their head. Several days later I am as confused before as to whether I agreed with what was discussed, who I agreed with, where I sympathised, where I struggled, where I despaired. The initial shock for me was the aggression that came from the actors – reminding me of the personal implications politics can have. I listened to debates about autonomy and choosing your country’s destiny and listened to their feelings of failure and their disappointment in society. It was a very one sided discussion for the majority of the play, the only character that I felt offered some starkly differing perspective was the brother, Harry, who was firmly portrayed as the right-wing conservative. His views were so opposing that it felt in some ways the play offered only two perspectives – left-wing nationalism and radicalism fighting for independence and progression, then the right-wing conservative desperate to stifle all change and progress. Perhaps it was intended to be more nuanced but the political climate at the moment does not particularly lend itself to nuances. It demands sides, a yes or a no, a leave or remain, and First Snow does not help to provide its audiences with the alternative that could exist in the space between these stark stances.
Talking about subjects that are still very present in the audience’s minds such as independence is a brave decision that should be respected and applauded. The reason we have a national theatre company is to produce theatre that reflects the current climate. However I felt the play’s emphasis on progression and moving forward was actually limited by its character’s clear desire for independence. I believe the companies had tried to create characters that reflected the nuances of political personalities, but as happens in real life the two extremes of left and right shouted the loudest and overshadowed the other characters (such as Zoe’s boyfriend played by Thierry Mabonga). I never enjoy being shouted at and there were times where I felt to disagree with characters like Zoe and Francoise (who were at other times extremely likeable and relatable) meant I was agreeing with the far right There was little understanding about or consideration for the stances in between. It would be nice if at one point in our life the quieter characters with valid points and individual reasons for their politics were giving a stage alongside the far right and far left, and it would have been especially nice if First Snow had afforded them this opportunity.
To conclude the show is well performed, the cast is talented and compelling, and the plot thought-provoking and insistent. However there was a little editing that could have provided a more universally approachable piece of work that reflected the people stuck in the middle of the yes and the no.