Review: Avalanche, Bloom Theatre Online
4.0Overall Score

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Skiing revolves around contradictory motions. While in mountain climbing, you follow a path upwards and reach a logical peak at the summit, in skiing, you start at the top, and reach your peak at the bottom. And that is before jumping on a piece of machinery and repeating this illogical journey again and again. It’s one of those human inventions – along with TikTok, Storm chasing, and birds nest soup – that would perhaps seem most bizarre to an alien visiting Earth. 

This strange, repetitive trajectory has been leapt upon by writers Simon Fraser and Jack Albert Cook as a metaphor to tell a story of social isolation and trauma in the life of a young man, Alex (Sonny Poon Tip). Alex never really liked skiing, he tells us, but he has nevertheless spent all his free time in his life so far obsessively out on the slopes, as a means to make up for some buried sense of his own deficiency. As he explains, ‘every time I reach a new peak – reality comes back to me and I plunge back up to the summit’. Coded as a closeted gay man, Alex seeks out the intense loneliness of endless hours spent cutting through the snow on his own. He carries on in this mode until just before his 21st birthday – when a momentary divergence from his usual course leaves him physically wounded and emotionally broken.

A one-man show whose script is one beautifully poetic monologue, the characterisation is so accomplished that it takes your breath away. The sense of the person is absolute – the extent that the audience is able to get inside his head feels more akin to an epic novel than a 40-minute online stage play. And this is not just due to the writing: Poon Tip is wonderful as Alex, taking time to draw out the nuances of each moment in the script. Every laugh, cry and frown is totally believable. He speaks with a steady intensity, adeptly toning down his theatrical manner to fit the online setting. 

Director Alistair Wilkinson is creative with the medium, mixing up their cinematography with fade-ins, montages, and various shots from multiple angles. Pulsing electronic beats also come in at times, to set various scenes, as well as to assist in our entering into the psychology of Alex. 

But despite all this care that has been put into the production and the writing, the narrative of the last quarter feels strangely over-egged. A script that begins as a steady engrossment in the mind of a troubled youth, turns into a series of endless dramatic comments that no longer quite seem so intrinsic to the character we have gotten to know.

In the end, the play is an extremely sympathetic presentation of mental health and realistic in its intonations – but it is also strangely tone deaf in its overall summation of his experience. The storyline risks suggesting that trauma can be a convenient means of solving personal difficulties that have long-festered with no other previous means of solution. It’s a shame, because other than the slightly bungled ending, Avalanche is pretty close to perfection.

Avalanche is playing online until 7th Feb. For more information and tickets, see Bloom Theatre’s Website.