Theatre review: OzAsia Festival, SNAP

A colourful blend of sophisticated illusions and technological trickery.
OzAsia Festival

The annual OzAsia Festival kicked off in Adelaide last Thursday night with a range of performances showcasing a diversity of styles and genres alongside the return of the ever-popular Lucky Dumpling Market in the heart of the city.

Adelaide’s OzAsia Festival is Australia’s leading contemporary arts festival engaging with Asia, offering three weeks of theatre, music, dance, comedy, visual arts, film, food, community and free events, and writing and ideas conversations from Asian and Asian Australian creatives.

This year’s program, under the artistic direction of broadcaster and producer Annette Shun Wah, features more than 500  artists from eight countries, and includes 10 world premieres, one Australian premiere and seven Adelaide premieres, across 50 events and exhibitions.

Premier Peter Malinauskas was at Her Majesty’s Theatre to launch the 15th Anniversary Festival ahead of the Australian premiere performance of SNAP by South Korean ensemble Gruejarm Productions. 

SNAP has been a hit with audiences across the world, from the Edinburgh Fringe to Broadway in New York. Shun Wah said she was thrilled to bring SNAP to Adelaide, saying it would ‘transport audiences into a magical world’. 

And so it did, with wonderful illusions, lovely music and effects, and some traditional clowning too.  Curiously billing itself as ‘contemporary mystery performance’, SNAP blends sleight-of-hand illusions with old-style physical comedy and impressive visual effects.

The ensemble of seven performers features four main characters named the Alchemist, the Dreamer, the Florist and the Oddball who perform the highlight acts. The remaining three cast members are The Tricksters whose role is to keep the audience engaged between the big show-stopping illusions. 

Read: Exhibition review: Shadow of the Moon

These Tricksters are more like children’s party clowns, performing basic physical comedy and rather obvious tricks. This somewhat undermines the amazing talents of the lead illusionists. The young ones in the audience clearly loved the show, but even my 11-year-old companion could see through some of the Tricksters’ trickery.

That said, the key illusions are extremely clever and executed with impressive precision, both from the performers and from the technical crew. The projections, music and lighting design are critical to the show’s success and these are the unseen talents in SNAP. This is very sophisticated technological trickery and quite amazing to watch.

The ensemble’s website tells us that the name Gruejarm means ‘any sleep briefly broke again’ and alludes to the place between reality and imagination. The highlight illusions – the party pieces, if you like – from the Dreamer, the Alchemist, the Florist and the Oddball are exceptionally well conceived and brilliantly executed and really do blur the boundaries of reality. You can’t help but wonder ‘how did they do that?’

Her Majesty’s Theatre, Adelaide

Artistic Director and Producer: Casa Kim
Sound Manager: Wonil Kim
Technical Director: Seong Beom Lee
Lighting Design: JungKook Park
Lighting Programmer: JunSeok Lee
Performers: TaeWon Kim, YoungJu Kim, HoJeong Lee, YoungMin Kim, Hyunki Min, YeongMin Lee and SunWoo Kim

Snap was performed from 20-22 October as part of OzAsia festival.

Dr Diana Carroll is a writer, speaker, and reviewer based in Adelaide. Her work has been published in newspapers and magazines including the Sydney Morning Herald, The Australian, Woman's Day, and B&T. Writing about the arts is one of her great passions.