We discover her beloved Dad, who loved the Arctic and exploration, has died very suddenly. Rory is in the raw, early stages of grief, but this manifests itself in an almost manic description of the funeral and a discovery of her father’s notebook, she makes an impulsive, life changing decision that she will take his ashes to the North Pole.
In this early part of the play, the pace is unrelenting. Swann captures the mannerisms and speech patterns of a teen who has experienced a traumatic event and words just pour from her. Once she arrives in Trömso, there are moments of reflection at the change of light, clarity and cold in this new snowy land. She visits the Polar Museum and Swann takes time to find those discoveries in that place. We start to meet new characters which she creates with ease using changes of accent and posture.
Notable scenes include her first sexual experience acted out simply and plainly where we feel her discomfort and moments of self doubt. We sense through this her forced maturity and see a mental change in her, all this nicely accomplished by Swann.
After this, the moments in the play and the production become clearer as she flies further north and meets an older female companion. There are lovely dream scenes, captured with mottled blue lighting and sound (designed by Martin Swann and Ellie Swann) and a slowing of the pace to enjoy the richness of the language.
Once the female companion discovers that she is a runaway, there is a high-intensity chase sequence. Here, speed gets mistaken for pace and the energy, whilst high, remains on one level. Some thought could have been put into giving this sequence more structure and shape.
The final act is accomplished beautifully and movingly. Her dad reaches his final destination but not in the way Rory had planned. She has matured and found her new place in her changed family. As some of the clues to this ending are planted early in the play the viewer is left with a sense of satisfaction and joy for Rory
This is a huge role for Laniet Swann, she tackles it with aplomb. The show is tightly directed by Ellie Swann, who, along with Martin Swann, has designed a simple and effective sound and lighting score. This is a thought-provoking and beautifully written piece of theatre and it is not often that such a young actor tackles such a huge role. Kudos to her and her team.
A Hundred Words for Snow is on until the 5th of March as part of the NZ Fringe Festival. Find your tickets here.