Snowmen in August do exist

Old Fire Station Carlisle

You’re in for something special when a show’s organisers double-sell-out a debut performance after finding extra seats. And that was We Know Now Snowmen Exist at the Carlisle Fringe show, directed by Lexie Ward.

There was a real buzz around this play, written by Michael Spencer, and entering the performance space we were with our ill-fated heroines in their tent, joining them on their camping trip up a Scottish mountain.

It’s based on the eerie, horrifying and very real events of the Dyatlov Pass Incident in Russia. I won’t go into the details of this – Google it – but not before bed. In what is a masterstroke, Spencer has reworked the story, moving it to 2018, with an all-female cast of delightful, strong, fierce –  and filthy – women.

After 90 minutes of laughter, tension, goosebumps and tears, I desperately wanted to be friends with Chloe, (Vanessa Sedgwick), Lisa (Rowan Kikke), Rachel (Rebekah Holly Neilson), Hayley  (Chloe Sturrock) and Zoe (Naomi Webster).

Credit to Spencer for writing, complex, multi-dimensional, funny women who swore like troopers and talked about struggles with shewees and Netflix and chill, along with masturbation, menstruation and orgies.

An exploration of female friendships Spencer’s comedic strengths came through with these five foul-mouthed Scottish lassies. Talking about nothing and everything, the actors were bafflingly believable as buddies. It was hyper-natural, as they teased and laughed and made tea. They interacted physically together so brilliantly we forgot it was a play and felt like we were just hanging out with girlfriends.

It was clear the director had complete trust in the actors to produce such genuine performances. The reassuring realism that Ward created only heightened the ominous air when the girls would say something that foreshadowed the horror of what was to come.

The laughter, juxtaposed with the tension and a couple of clever, well-timed jump scares was a triumph. Ward’s inspired use of underscoring added to the atmosphere and we heard the audience audibly react to the shocking, chilling climax. Goosebump-inducing, powerful stuff, this is relevant, necessary theatre.

We Know Now Snowmen Exist is the debut original play from Highly Suspect Theatre. Since forming in 2013 Highly Suspect have established themselves as one of the country’s leading Murder Mystery companies, having performed at prestigious venues such as Durham, Cathedral, The National Centre for the Written Word and Blackpool Winter Gardens.

They are thrilled to be branching out to create original theatre pieces, and We Know Now Snowmen Exist marks the transition from being solely a murder mystery performance company to a theatre company creating original plays.

 

*****                                                                                                                        Caroline Nancy 

 

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