Review By Lisa Lanzi
GrueJarm Productions has brought this charming, magical, slapstick cabaret/variety gala to Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival. An Australian premiere this October, Snap has already played across a number of continents to great acclaim.
An ensemble of immensely talented South Korean artists mixes physical comedy, clowning, circus, magic and illusion, tight technical feats and digital artistry with finely-tuned but gentle slapstick hilarity to convey an enchanted journey. It was utterly delightful to experience the laughter and exclamations of children in the audience and I definitely encourage families to attend one of the last three shows this week. The more engagement young people are able to have with diverse theatre adventures, the better.
First is an introduction, with house lights up, to the three Trickster characters and their creative take on the usual ‘no photos or cell phones’ dictum. Already we sense the connection these artists have with each other and their audiences. YeongMin Lee, SunWoo Kim and HyunKi Min are remarkable in their physical manoeuvring and distinct characterizations with just a few vocalizations throughout. Their appearances are episodic and bookend the other cast members’ illusionist specialties. The Tricksters investigate a ‘cabinet of curiosities’ that morphs into a portal to these otherworldly spaces upstage, when the curtain lifts. In a narrow, vaudevillian-style downstage space the Tricksters perform a wide variety of magic tricks enhanced by skilled physical comedy - from shadow play to Chaplin-esque push/pull routines, disappearing props to gravity-defying scarves, puppets, and much more.
Tae Won Kim (The Dreamer), YoungMin Kim (The Alchemist), YoungJu Kim (The Oddball), and HoJeong Lee (The Florist) are revealed one by one to perform their distinct, fastidiously choreographed sequences within spaces that are lit to be strange, yet wonder-filled. Each featured artists is supremely talented and each creates a world within a world, framed by their individual sleight-of-hand manipulations which sometimes defy logic and certainly elicit gasps from the audience.
In a high tech world it is refreshing to experience some older style magic and classic clowning from the Tricksters here. We might ‘know’ they are hiding one hand within a box (for instance) but the expert illusions they create through cooperation and refined movement are still entertaining. For me, the music was a disappointment though. I was unclear on the intention of using compositions that were either wildly derivative (think stylistically of Harry Potter, Hawaii Five-O, Mission Impossible) or a tad inclined to sound like ‘elevator music’ or some kind of André Rieu extravaganza. I would have been happier to have been exposed to South Korean musical styles, or perhaps even live music on stage as an integral accompaniment to the company’s artistry.
I also question whether Snap is wholly a mainstage show. It would work beautifully in a black box style space giving the performers more opportunities to disrupt the fourth wall, as the Tricksters did occasionally at Her Majesty’s. However, the level of technical input is demanding so the performance is enhanced here by the supremely fitted out tech capabilities in Adelaide’s refurbished theatre: there are detailed sound- and movement-aligned cues, fabulous digital projection for ‘The Dreamer’ sequence, and much more to marvel at.
Snap is more than a variety show but pays homage to the vaudeville era with the slightly antiquated but very suitable Trickster costumes, the staging, and the episodic structure. The clowning sequences with the Tricksters are my favourite elements and were performed with conviction and finesse. There is also the feel of extravagant contemporary magic shows when the featured illusionists take the stage, bathed in deeply hued lighting with lush orchestral soundtracks. Artistic Director Casa Kim weaves his fantastical and whimsical narrative to suit the individual talents of the magicians/illusionists, a little like Canada’s Cirque du Soleil has done in the past.
The New York Times dubbed the Snap cast “Wizards without Wands" and this ensemble certainly delivers an entertaining, light-hearted romp which will undoubtedly enchant most audiences.