Listen with LADS
The Memory of Snow , a radio play by Sian Rowland
Alone/Together, a series of monologues
29th, 30th and 31st October 2020


Cast - The Memory of Snow        Production Team
Olga Sarah Hudson   Director Cathy Naylor
Tatiana Karen Rogers   Production Assistant Val Jones
Maria Lisa Kirby   Video and Sound Editing James Harrington
Anastasia Sarah Vickers   Sound Effects Andrew Rogers
      Sound Recording Jean Cooper and Cathy Naylor
      Sound Design Cathy Naylor
      Poster Design Howard Platt
Cast - Alone/Together        Production Team
Maya Mortimer   Director Howard Platt
Babs Oakley   Video and Sound Editing James Harrington
Jean Cooper   Sound Recording Jean Cooper and Cathy Naylor
Marcel Kay   Sound Design Howard Platt
Adam Rabinowitz   Slide Design Howard Platt
Wendy Butler   Poster Design Howard Platt
Vicky Harris      

Society : Loughton Amateur Dramatic Society
Production : The Memory of Snow
Date : 30th October 2020
Venue : YouTube
Report by : C Baynes, District 9 Rep NODA, London

I believe LADS may have chosen to perform “The Memory of Snow “ by Sian Rowland before Covid 19 reared its ugly head and threw the world into disarray. As things panned out this play was more relevant to our situation over the last six months or so than can have been anticipated by your artistic director. Hopefully the final outcome of our lockdown will not be so grisly.

“The Memory of Snow” chronicles the experiences of the four ‘Romanov’ Princesses when they were under house arrest in war-torn Russia in1918. Written as a stage play by Sian Rowland it was presumably adapted slightly by your team to work as a radio play and it really did transpose very well thanks to the full commitment and superb delivery of your four actresses and the visual and sound effects on YouTube created by your Technical team. 

Cathy Naylor directed this radio presentation, which required a somewhat different approach to its theatre performance.  The actors do not have the advantage of showing emotion in the face or body but fortunately the human voice is wonderfully expressive and with this and the atmospheric sound effects Cathy was able to ensure a ‘picture’ was created and justice was done to this moving play.  Production assistant for the proceedings was Valerie Jones.  The different scenes were depicted on screen by photographs of venues first in Tobolsk, Siberia, and later in Ekaterinburg. A further scene in which there was an exchange of letters between the sisters, was very effectively depicted by overlapping dialogue and a sepia picture of hand written letters on the screen. Further atmosphere was created throughout by sound effects like ticking clocks, guards’ footsteps, doors opening and closing etc and all this added to the success of this production.  Howard Platt helped Cathy with Design and Andrew Rogers sourced the sound effects. The ‘sound and vision’ for this YouTube presentation was edited meticulously by James Harrington.      

The ‘stage’ was suitably set by the opening music – The Russian Imperial Anthem – God Save the Tsar – moving seamlessly into The Russian Federation Anthem intermingled with the sounds of mayhem.  The royal family photograph worked well but as we were going to be listening to ‘OTMA‘ (as they called themselves) over the next 40 minutes or so it might have been nice to have had named pictures of the four Princesses as well. The opening scene found the girls trying to keep their spirits up whilst being confined at home by the Russian guards at Tobolsk , Siberia in March 1918.

We learn much about these four sisters in this opening scene. The eldest, Olga, carried the burden of being the responsible one rather reluctantly but the love she has for her   

siblings and parents never falters and she tries to set a good example of behaviour and decorum whilst remaining positive.  Cracks begin to appear in her mood during the next couple of scenes in view of the restrictions enforced on her life – which, before the war she recollects had just begun to soar. This role was played beautifully by Sarah Hudson. Sarah demonstrated all Olga’s documented characteristics so well. Her melancholy and frustration increases through the piece until she loses her temper with her beloved sister, Maria, who she cannot forgive in view of her romantic indiscretion with a Russian soldier. This is particularly offensive to Olga as she had, herself, been the victim of rape by one of the Russian soldiers. This horrifying incident and her awareness of her family’s likely fate lead to her deepening depression and suicidal ideation and self harming all of which Sarah pitched exactly right – very emotional and distressing but controlled and credible. Her speech proudly describing the royal blood pounding through all their veins was no doubt a reference to the family’s downfall – the inherited condition, haemophilia, from which the only son and heir, their brother Alexey, suffered. 

Tatiana, the second of the “big pair”, as their mother called them, is the ‘sensible’ one, the organiser or ‘the governess’ as her sisters called her. Karen Rogers played this peacemaker, perfectly. With her soothing, reassuring voice she attempts to calm her sisters’ quick temper, high spirits or feisty antics.  Her anxiety and genuine love and concern was perfectly evident in the duologue with Olga as her sister is breaking down – we could almost see the girls embracing.  Tatiana never loses her regal control even in the final scene. It is mainly thanks to Tatiana’s love, empathy and pride that the girls regain their composure in this final scene, well judged and credibly performed by Karen. 

In the first couple of scenes Maria’s naivety, warmth and openness - as well as her submissiveness, was well portrayed by Lisa Kirby. Maria was obviously dominated by her younger sister Anastasia but there was no ill feeling and the friendship and love between these young girls was very evident, particularly in the opening scene. Maria however acquired a confidence and maturity when she was chosen to accompany her parents to Ekaterinburg to take care of her mother. The readings of the letters to and from her sisters was delightfully done. Maria’s growth as a young lady unfolds during these letter exchanges so much so that we are prepared for her sad disagreement with Olga in the final scene regarding her flirtation with a Russian soldier.  Lisa’s performance in this scene when she pleads with her sister to kill her too was impressive - a very moving sequence from both, great team work.  

Anastasia – the younger of the “little pair” as their mother called them remains the wild, irrepressible child throughout. Sarah Vickers brilliantly captured her cheerful enthusiasm of youth and was determined to keep everyone cheerful however disagreeable their situation.  Sarah’s overall control of the “Ivanhoe” sequence was much appreciated – her vocal versatility was perfectly used as she took on several characters within this playlet. Her energy and exuberance contributed greatly to the joyous atmosphere of this first scene. She also managed to inspire our sympathy when she behaved rather petulantly, frustrated by the restrictions forced on them by the Russian forces and upset by their unkindness.  

I am grateful that I was given the opportunity to listen to this production of “The Memory of Snow” and I can appreciate your frustration at being unable to perform this play on stage to the large audition it deserves.  I do hope that many watched your excellent YouTube presentation.  

Carole Baynes