In SNAPPED, currently showing at the Baxter Theatre, Jennie Reznek takes audiences on an expressionistic theatre experience of the loss of a father: ‘These are the minutes of my story; these are the minutes of his story’.
It’s been a week since the opening night performance of SNAPPED at the Baxter Theatre, and I am guilt-ridden that I have been procrastinating in getting the review out. My thoughts on the production has not left me; a daily companion as I reflect on SNAPPED, and a testament to the power of theatre that makes one feel.
I’ve truly struggled to write this review, and when eventually challenging myself to answer the question “Why?”, I found myself confronted with the reality: I wanted to like SNAPPED more than I did. So reviewing it seemed unfair because it delivers exactly what it promises, namely … Yet, I just could not connect with it as much as others so clearly did on the night.
We’ve been yearning for re-opening of theatre in this Covid-ridden world for so long, praying for its survival and return, that not liking SNAPPED more feels like a betrayal of the world and the artistic medium for which I have such love and respect. Falling deeper down the rabbit-hole of introspection, letting my inquisitive inner three-old ask a follow-up question, “Why?”, I’m confronted with the reality that the style does not speak to me at present.
Expressionism as a style of theatre (which means many things to different people, but for me uses theatre elements in an exaggerated manner to communicate strong feelings to an audience) can feel more like an assault on one's senses than an exciting challenge depending on one’s state of mind. For me SNAPPED is such theatrical expressionism in over-drive. Though this can be exciting theatre for some, my mind and soul are emotionally so spent in our post-normal world that watching a play where the style itself calls for the production to be saturated with symbolism, visual effects and physical (over)reactions all at once triggers in me a state of detachment rather than engagement… and a great theatre experience is all about engagement for me.
Perhaps I should be less philosophical about this and more visual (especially when critiquing my reaction towards what I conceive to be an expressionistic play): At moments, while sitting in the glorious space that is the Baxter Theatre Flipside, I found my mind wandering to the quote attributed to Coco Chanel –who herself approached adornment like a science, as much as an art: “Before you leave the house, look in the mirror and take on thing off.” Strangely enough, this quote has often been my benchmark for personal preferences in relation to visual forms of entertainment. (For example, I could not get further than 15 minutes into the movie ‘Uncut Gems’, which many hailed a masterpiece, because of that benchmark-feeling of ‘too much’.)
And that is it, I think I would have engaged better with SNAPPED if it was less art for the sake of expressionism; if at certain moment (not even all the moments) of extreme exaggeration one element could simply be taken away, as the overflow of art in the form of sounds and visuals and physical theatre mannerism left me feeling so overwhelmed at the truly poetic moments that that which I yearned to get lost in, the theatrical rhetoric of the narrative, got away from me.
This, dear reader, is then my verbose (arguably ‘too much’) disclaimer: Within this realm of my subjective-state of-mind, this is my best attempt at a mythical objective review.
As a whole, SNAPPED is a perfectly well put together production of great value. It does a great job at displaying the talent of a highly skilled troop of creatives, and addresses themes of death and regret with great depth. It will definitely appeal to a broad audience.
In her writer’s note, Jennie Reznek explains that grief does not always follow seven neat stages towards acceptances. She wrote SNAPPED, a two-hander, from that perspective of being stuck in the same place of grief and regret for 15 years after her father’s passing. In fact, her character describes her journey as ‘a search for a sense of him, the story of him, her father in 1944’.
Through photos Reznek’s character in her search of closure encounters (and at times chases) the whispers echoing from the photos her father took in a time of war where he took on the post of medic. In search of tender-kindness, the whispers lead her to a place where her story (as viewed through the memories of her father) reveals to her the character embodied by Carlo Daniels. This character is someone who worked alongside her father in the field saving wounded soldiers, but who died there and lies forgotten in a grave –none of his loved ones knowing the details of his heroic tale or where his eternal resting place is.
The overlap between the two characters effectively aids the narrative of SNAPPED. However, I left the theatre wanting to know more of the emotive tale and sacrifices of Daniel’s forgotten soldier and the loved ones he left behind. Perhaps this speaks to the success of his character’s impact, leaving you as audience member wondering about him; walking out with as many questions as his family was left with in their grief of a MIA loved-one.
Though I initially thought the breaking of the 4th wall at times interrupted the flow of the narrative unnecessarily, upon reflection it was those moments that allowed the audience to breathe as it released some of the tension.
With scene changes nothing is hidden and Xola Mntanywa as cast member ‘crew’ provides an element of ease: he calmly but purposefully manipulates the stage setting from scene to scene.
The production strongly embraces the use of visuals and sounds. Craig Leo’s set and costume design speaks directly to the text, and his striking puppetry merges seamlessly with the videography compiled by Kirsti Cummings. Along with the sound design by Neo Muyanga, it all subtly manipulates the emotional flow of the production.
Due to the intensity of the production, it felt about 15 minutes too long for my fragile Covid-fatigued nerves. However, for those patrons longing for a theatre-night out and who won’t be too triggered by a very vivid portrait of death and grief, SNAPPED with its echoes of ghostly memories will intrigue. When the narrative ‘snaps’ one really does experience the ripple effects of the devastation of war and broken promises.
You have until 2 October 2021 to see SNAPPED at the Baxter Theatre, with tickets available online through Webtickets. All Covid protocols are well observed, so remember to get to the theatre at least 45 minutes before the show to allow for easy access.