Ireland is a place I feel a lot of pride, despite having no blood connection. It was thought we have Irish in my family and so, like anyone, I took that and ran with it whenever Ireland was brought up. Sadly, recent discoveries say otherwise. However, some of my best friends are Irish and since the day I met them, I’ve enjoyed learning about the culture, mannerisms, phrases and the socio and political state of Ireland through history.
It’s quite well known that there is a huge aspect on religion in Ireland. With this, as soon as Catholism is mentioned, you think “Oh here we go. Another Irish play talking about growing up Catholic”, by Purple Snowflakes and Titty Wanks is fresh, and new in its approach and is unlike any play, Irish or not, that I’ve ever seen.
Purple Snowflakes… is a one woman show about coming of age in relatively modern Dublin. It sees the character of Saoirse finding her way through life; her family, her sexuality, religious repression and eating disorders. She fights through life, retelling her story to her friend who is only a memory now. It picks on loss and love, and growth from child to fully fledged adult, and what is important throughout each stage.
Sounds a barrel of laughs right? Well.. actually it very much is. There’s an element of very unique comedy, relating mostly to the Irish culture. The Irish are some very clever and comedic people, using their repression and perhaps sheltered upbringings to be darkly funny. This is no exception for this story – it’s honestly hilarious but when you get too comfortable with this, you get a punch of the serious into your stomach. The highs are perfectly punctuated by the lows; this is what makes this play so brilliant.
It also educates – how would someone growing up, trying to discover who they are, really do this when there is little to no information, no openness and certainly no help with figuring out sexuality, gender or mental health. Perhaps this isn’t the same all over Dublin or Ireland, but certainly it feels like a tale often told and Hanly picks this apart – she encourages and supports feminist morals, of LGBTQIA+ ideals, of being who you are and unapologetic. She makes a statement; not only of the state of lack of education on these elements but also about sticking two fingers up to it and saying I am who I am.
Sarah Hanly, writer and performer, is excellent. She is energetic, bounding around the stage with a vigor we can only imagine having. You feel as if she is growing up on the stage in front of you, not just in her story. By using lights, a small amount of staging and props, the scene is changed quickly and effectively. A very small stage, it somehow expands and with the help of the narrative, you can easily imagine the different places that the character is existing in.
We feel like we are her friend – she speaks to her friend as if she is right in front of her, and we fill that void. She addresses us, often with “do you remember that?” and, while we clearly don’t, she convinces us that we do. And we are there, with her and no one else, not even the other audience members.
I loved every minute of Purple Snowflakes. Your emotions are constantly on edge and this makes it exciting, makes your heart break, makes your sides split, and you cannot tell what happens next. Purple Snowflakes needs to be your next show to watch.