Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St, Wellington

01/03/2022 - 05/03/2022

New Athenaeum Theatre, 24 The Octagon, Dunedin

25/06/2020 - 28/06/2020

The Athenaeum Theatre, Lower Octagon, Dunedin

05/09/2019 - 14/09/2019

NZ Fringe Festival 2022

Production Details

Written by Tatty Hennessy

Presented by Moose of Fire Productions

“It’s a bit weird to be sitting and drinking with a fit boy with your dad’s ashes in your backpack.”

15-year-old Rory has suddenly lost her father. When she was younger, he was her playmate and fellow adventurer, creating maps and treasure hunts, pretending to be like the great Arctic explorers – the ‘beardy dead men’: Nansen, Shackleton, Freuchen, and more. After reading his journal, she decides to take his ashes on the trip of a lifetime. She sets out to achieve his unfulfilled dream – to go to the North Pole.

This one-woman show is an extraordinary piece of new writing by young UK playwright Tatty Hennessy. With the awkward blend of superior self-assurance and agonising self-doubt, typical of a 15 year old, Rory peppers her story with facts and characters from Victorian explorers right through to the people she meets on her travels.

New Athenaeum Theatre, Octagon, Dunedin
5-14 September 2019
Thurs-Sat 7:30pm, Sunday 2:30pm
BOOK: tiny.cc/nattickets

Moose of Fire Productions are proud to present this New Zealand premiere season.


‘A Hundred Words for Snow’ had its New Zealand premier in Dunedin in September 2019. Lockdown restrictions meant that only the Southland leg of a planned South Island tour was able to be completed in the first part of 2020. Moose of Fire Productions is thrilled to now be able to ‘get this show on the road!’ To celebrate the end of audience restrictions, ‘Snow’ will return to the New Athenaeum Theatre for a strictly limited season before tour continues in the Spring.

A Hundred Words for Snow by Tatty Hennessy
Moose of Fire Productions
New Athenaeum Theatre
25-28 June 2020
Thurs-Sat 7:00pm, Sunday 2:00pm
$15-$20 online, $25 doorsales
BOOK: newathenaeumtheatre.com

2022, NZ Fringe, Wellington

Te Auaha, Tapere Iti, 65 Dixon St
Tue 1 – Sat 5 March 2022
$15-$20 + bf

Rory: Laniet Swann

Director, Visual Designer: Ellie Swann
Technical Designer: Martin Swann 

Theatre , Solo ,

1 hr 20 min

The most enriching experience so far

Review by John Smythe 02nd Mar 2022

What a treat to be taken on multiple journeys at once through the experiences of a 15 year-old English schoolgirl. By sharing with us her remarkable grieving process, following the unexpected death of her father, Rory (don’t call her Aurora) takes on his abiding obsession with polar explorers and through her own rite of passage to new levels of understanding and maturity – to the North Pole, no less!  

On her website, playwright Tatty Hennessey says, “I tell dark stories with warm hearts that find the epic in the everyday, look at big ideas through small lenses, and are preferably a little bit strange.” Well, A Hundred Words for Snow is certainly an epic tale told by an ‘everyday’ schoolgirl whose synapses are constantly firing with mind-expanding contemplations as she chooses and pursues a path most people would regard as strange if not downright dangerous.

Her attempt to locate the start of her story, now that it’s over, prompts a series of ‘what ifs’ that spring from an active, enquiring mind and set the tone for 85 minutes of richly layered recollections that come alive in Laniet Swann’s wonderfully relaxed yet gripping performance – made all the more immediate by Hennessey’s astute decision to evoke her experiences in the present tense.

The bratty teenager, insensitive to her mother’s grief while pursuing this means of coping with her own, vies for our empathy with the innocent abroad and the intrepid adventurer to keep us guessing what will happen next, let alone how it will all turn out. While we may assume she has survived to tell the tale, there is always the possibility she’s communicating with us from another plane.

Far from bogging the story down, the historical facts and philosophical musings that pepper her story produce the same thrill we’d get if a child in our own whanau was sharing them. As directed by Ellie Swann, who also designed the visual and technical elements with Martin Swann, the pacing and tone are perfectly modulated throughout. That this is an affirming family effort adds yet another layer of pleasure to the exercise.

I could say more about the people Rory encounters on her travels, all delightfully evoked by Laniet, but I feel its best you happen across them yourselves.

I have just checked the Fringe page expecting the show would be booked out – given the super-cautious way Te Auaha has reduced audience capacity in both its  tapere (auditoriums) – but it seems there are still seats available, so treat yourselves.   

A Hundred Words for Snow is the most enriching experience I’ve had so far, this Fringe. 


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Astonishing tale impressively told

Review by Helen Watson White 26th Jun 2020

This is a welcome reboot of a show warmly received in September last year, and taken to six Southland towns earlier this year before Covid restrictions ended its planned South Island tour. Its sole performer, Dunedin actor Laniet Swann, has created a totally believable 15-year-old English girl called Aurora (Rory) who takes her audience on an equally believable – if unexpected – journey. Now she has packed her bag to set off with a new group of treasure-hunters. We are privileged to be transported to a place where few have ever been, and that pleasure awaits further SI audiences when the tour is resumed this spring.

There is a winning sense of impetus and enthusiasm about Tatty Hennessy’s award-winning play and her central character, played by Swann with candour and sympathy. Rory gets her driving imperative from her dad, a geography teacher who longed to see the North Pole and promised his daughter they’d go there. Instead, he was killed in a car-crash while walking home from school.

A story that starts with a funeral doesn’t sound too promising but we are brought willingly onboard by a complex mix of absurdity, wit and wonder. Rory pushes past the “gross” experience of a crematorium, and past the limited vocabulary of grief displayed by some, to understand her dad is still alive in the hopes and plans that he expressed in his journal, and which she may herself be able to realize.

Resourced from her dad’s study, with its maps, books, posters and photos of historic Arctic explorers – those “beardy men” in thick furs – she sets off (with her dad’s urn of ashes and her mum’s credit card) for Norway. Arriving in a land with light so unlike London, she feels alien, but “slinks in” with a group of German schoolchildren to be given the immersion experience. We share throughout in the information-fest, helped by ghostly projections of explorer ships, recorded noises of ice “melting, freezing, cracking” and eerie blue light from sound and lighting designer Martin Swann.

Flattered to find herself included at an “impossibly cool” party, with boys named Marius and Andreas, and a girl who’s not just pretty but “proper real beautiful”, Rory is seduced by Norwegian liquor and Andreas into her first horizontal sexual encounter. From feeling her skin “like snow waiting for footprints” she succumbs to the piercing everywoman knows – “well, except for nuns I guess”: a moment worth celebrating, despite condom-fitting being nothing like practising on cucumbers at school.

On a flight to remote Svalbard, Hennessy keeps the down-to-earth realism of Rory’s idiom, but launches into a blue-sky rhapsody to all things polar. The detail of “people-sized” everyday life is contrasted by Rory with the immensity of white space that tells us how small we are, even those who have dared to do great things.

How great those things were is brought down to size by this percipient teen, but always with humour. Even though she says she hates geography, Rory has absorbed a great deal of scientific information from her dad and understands the racism, sexism and unnatural ice-melt – not to speak of the STDs – inflicted by Westerners on Arctic people and land.

When the runaway is joined by her mother for a final push for the Pole – any one of the five different North Poles we’ve been told about – Rory asks “Are you angry?”
Mum says, “Yes – and impressed.” We are impressed too.

Incredibly, Hennessy has created the old stories and vast landscapes we perceive, entirely through her words. And it is Laniet Swann alone who has brought to life all the other characters, including the parents. I feel she is strongest playing the females, principally the funny, self-willed but self-doubting English schoolgirl with a dream, but also her mother and aunt, and the older woman Freda who befriends her in Svalbard. The Norwegian accents of the boys are – as required – very cool, but the crucial voice of her dad I just don’t hear clearly; though central to the story, he seems like an aside.

Swann is best when she takes her time over the script’s many turns, transitions and ironies, letting us hear the full import of words we have never heard before. Usually I think a good pace is of the essence, but in this case I find myself wanting more time to absorb the astonishing and weighty themes in this modern fairytale. 


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Girl's polar adventure effectively presented

Review by Barbara Frame 11th Sep 2019

Rory’s dad was a geography teacher, fascinated by the Arctic and polar exploration, but he never made it to the North Pole.  

Now he’s died in an accident, and 15-year-old Rory decides he’s going to get there. Armed with mum’s credit card and the urn containing dad’s ashes, she sneaks out of the house.

What happens after that, in Tatty Hennessy’s award-winning play, makes a wonderful story, and Laniet Swann, as Rory, does a wonderful job of communicating her typically adolescent blend of sweetness, bravado, confidence and awkwardness. [More


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A beautiful, sweet story

Review by Emer Lyons 06th Sep 2019

The New Athenaeum Theatre is iridescent tonight. The entry way to the theatre doors glisten with fairy lights and low hanging paper snowflakes. Once through the doors, the truly expansive, adaptable space is transformed into a cacophony of reverberating white light with the sound of gulls and wind. The set is blocked momentarily from view by cascading blue-swept white-boards seamed together. Once you step around, black and white Antarctic imagery is projected onto the back wall of the simple, beautiful set, of which every part is necessary and utilised.

Laniet Swann appears as the charming and resilient Rory, a fifteen-year old who has just lost her father in an accident. She takes the audience on an odyssey from his funeral to the North Pole, portraying the charismatic Rory with utter charm. She weaves in and out of a variety of accents with the ease of a consummate professional, so much so it becomes easy to forget that this is a one-woman show. She is entirely convincing, almost startlingly fifteen, holding the stage and the attention of the audience throughout.

A Hundred Words for Snow tells the story of grief and the strange kind of motivation it can provide. The works of Artic explorers are referenced throughout, most notably Fridtjof Nansen’s Farthest North which Rory takes with her on her journey. She delights the audience with her tales of explorers caved inside their own frozen breaths, and those who dug themselves to safety with their own frozen shit.

The visual and technical design, by Ellie and Martin Swann, are both classily sparse. The atmosphere of each moment is encapsulated in the lighting and sound. Ellie Swann’s directing feels effortless; you can sense every ounce of the careful deliberation and hard work put into this play. It is a beautiful, sweet story crafted with pinpoint precision by UK playwright Tatty Hennessy.

Go and catch the polar drift of this theatrical phenomenon before it melts away! 


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