SNAP @ Assembly Theatre

Review by Lauren Strain | 17 Aug 2016

It's a brave magic show that actually puts a rabbit – albeit a plush one – in the same pair of hands as a hat. But 'contemporary mystery performance' SNAP manages to reference numerous tropes of old-fashioned voodoo without seeming dated. Instead, it's a loving homage to an era of more innocent entertainment – from the blast of Tom and Jerry on a crackly old TV set, to the trio of Chaplinesque tricksters who guide us through the story.

Presented as part of Assembly's second annual Korean season, SNAP brings together eight of the country's best illusionists in a series of stunts designed to show off their individual skills, but which begin to merge as the three bumbling pranksters interfere. Charming narrative touches, like the colourful origami of the first scene returning as a flurry of butterflies in the finale, make this more than just a talent show. A reprise of one of the funnier sketches – in which a weary artist returns to his easel in a futile attempt to complete a painting that keeps running away – could prove a gamble with the audience's attention, but is so sweetly performed that it's a pleasure to watch it again, this time with the puppet master's strings revealed.

Unfortunately there seem to be a few technical hitches on the day we attend, serving to reinforce a feeling that the most impressive pieces are, in fact, the least complicated (to the naked eye at least, if not to perform). Just as the show seems enamoured with a bygone era, so the magic is strongest when at its most 'classic'; sleight of hand, timing and tempo win out against acts more obviously dependent on gadgetry (though children will surely love 'The Dreamer', a white-suited clown transformed into a living colouring book). For sheer “How?!” factor, our favourite is Yeki Zoo as 'The Kid': producing garden windmills from thin air, he reappears later with Eun Kyoung Park for 'The Flash', a properly incomprehensible sequence of costume changes that's pretty much worth the ticket alone.