Theatre review: Magnet Theatre’s Snapped is heroic – an epic piece of theatre- brought to life in the sanctuary of live performance with an exquisite script, design, sound – a potent mix of physical performance and magical realism

What: Magnet Theatre’s Snapped
Where: Baxter Flipside
When: September 16 to 2 October, 2021, at 7pm with Saturday matinees at 2pm  
Written and performed by: Jennie Reznek
Director: Mark Fleishman  

Reznek is joined on stage by Magnet graduates Carlo Daniels who “plays the father, an unknown stretcher bearer and various other characters” and Sithyilelo Makupula, who joins Jennie and Carlo onstage as “crew”.        

Magnet Theatre’s Snapped, written by Jennie Reznek and directed by Mark Fleishman is an intensely beautiful and personal piece of theatre– knitted and layered – with images, ideas, words, voice, music (heart stopping original music by Neo Muyanga). It is a journey through memory; life and death and how we somehow process and snap moments and spool threads together. Jennie Reznek’s performance is a masterclass -of transitions- from old woman to little girl. Live performance has been for the most part, put on pause during the pandemic and it is in the Baxter Flipside, that Snap unspools as a potent mix of physical performance and magical realism, manifested in the sanctuary of theatre.

I was overwhelmed, after watching Snapped, last weekend. There is a lot process. I have mulled over how to convey this in my review. I am mindful of not plot spoiling -too much- but at the same time, I want to provide some insights into the enthralling story that Reznek excavates on stage. To get personal, apologies for the late review. I was dodging roadblocks – which prevented me from writing a review of a highly considered and special piece of theatre.  If you don’t want to know more about Snapped, stop reading now and go and see it.

What does snap bring to mind for you? Snap – “got you”- as in a board game. Snap –as in broken – at the end of your tether – with no way of being put together -or how about – snap – as in taking a photo- a snap? Snap is stitched out in many directions. Jennie Reznek tells us that her father died 15 years ago, when she was 46. He was a medic and first responder and a decorated war hero (World War II). With his death, she could no longer talk to him; no longer pick up the phone – or ignore the phone. He was brave. He always seemed invincible and assured her when she was little girl, that he would never die. She had wanted to tell his story but she was stuck. She was snapped in inertia; frozen; overcome and not able to continue. In each performance, this stays with her. The piece is not about lockdown but it resonates in terms of the isolation that lockdown triggered. Locked down at home, many people; retrieved boxes of – photos, stuff, films, diaries, letters – from storage places. It was about sifting through; trying to image and find connections to people who are longer with us and then being snapped into pieces; unable to go further and maybe shoving the boxes back into the wardrobes and garages. Snap conjures up the facing of one’s past; mortality and transience, in the isolation of the pandemic, particularly in hard lockdown, when everything was heightened in terms of loss and regret – present and the past. One grasps for fragments; retrieving and imaging as best as one can; processing loss and longing.  The phone rings and who should we say is calling? Who is calling and do we understand what they are saying? Do we get distracted from what we are doing and get stumped by our imagination and night terrors and trees lying flayed outside; in the dark or do we play on the dead tree and it morphs into a fun object to explore in the park? Reznek’s script is lyrical and poignant – exquisitely written – almost like an epic long form poem.

Reznek’s father was the official photographer in his unit. He was the snapper. When you snap an image; that image is fixed or is it? Looking back, we have no way of auditing the sepia snaps; who was there; who wasn’t, who was saved and who did the saving; the terror and fear of dodging bullets. Life is fragile. War is brutal and full of ruptures which linger, long after the war is over. Is it ever “over”? Reznek’s father was there and as we watch Snapped, we are there, watching, with her dad and watching her process his story -and her story. He was a doctor. After the war, he made films, as a hobby. In Snapped, Reznek has used elements from two of his art films (about Oskar Kokoschka and Francisco Goya), together with snaps that he took as a soldier and excerpts from his diaries. This archive is revealed in Snapped, in a magnificent set which is more installation than “set” (Craig Leo, assisted by Leigh Bishop). It is a landscape – with screens of discoveries. I wanted to walk into the spaces, and sift through the snaps which had fluttered on the stage. I wanted to wind back the reels of footage and freeze the frames to find out more. I wanted to immerse myself in the physical and emotional landscape of Snapped.

Playing is very much part of snapped. There are moments of play and playfulness which Reznek brings in and which tempers the knottiness and intensity of this story. She is an absolute delight as the “little girl” – adorable. We smile and laugh and we feel relief and release. Reznek deserves an award for her performance in Snapped.  Carlo Daniels – a Magnet Theatre graduate – is fabulous in multiple roles and his voice – singing- framed by the stirring score by Neo Muyanga – charges the piece with a sense of lament and also celebration. Bravo to the creative team – Craig Leo (set design, shadow puppets), Kirsti Cumming (videography), Ina Wichterich (choreography) and lighting (Themba Stewart and Mark Fleishman) for bringing Snapped to life, during Covid and lockdown, with a heroic piece of theatre – richly textured narratively, visually, aurally. An incredible achievement.

Jennnie Reznek and Carlo Daniels in Snapped. Pic by Mark Wessels.
Magnet Theatre’s Snapped – creative team- premiere season at the Baxter Flipside, Sep-Oct 2021

Writer and performer: Jennie Reznek
Director: Mark Fleishman
Set design: Craig Leo, assisted by Leigh Bishop
Original music composition: Neo Muyanga Videography: Kirsti Cumming
Choreography: Ina Wichterich
Lighting: Themba Stewart and Mark Fleishman.          

*Featured image- Jennie Reznek in Snapped. Pic by Mark Wessels.