Review- SmallWaR- Hong Kong Arts Festival


By: Meaghan McGurgan


Yesterday, I was privy to a piece of theatre that wasn't flashy or theatrical. Yes, it used modern technology to tell its story, but it did so without pretense or shock value. Valentijn Dhaenens' SmallWaR is a companion piece to his larger than life, BigMouth. SmallWaR is a subtle piece that talks about the everyday victims of war. A one man show is turned into a greek chorus through the use of video installations. Simplicity is often the sign of perfection and this is why SmallWaR was so effective in telling its tale of loss and the horrors of battle.


Using the letters and memoirs of those who served in wars across the centuries, Dhaenens' play could have easily come across as agit-prop but he treaded the line delicately and I think it was his sound choices that really helped seal the deal with the audience. SmallWaR's ingenious technique of overlaid video projections allows him – and us – to get inside the mind of a soldier whose body has been reduced to a ball of clay. We hear his thoughts and cries for help as he is unable to speak or move. It's heartbreaking and hard to watch but necessary to see to these modern times. The show finds an effective way to make trauma tangible.


Kudos must be given to writer and performer Valentijn Dhaenens for a stirring performance. He was captivating to watch and easily transitioned between the characters and moments. I also thought his singing voice was especially beautiful and haunting during "Are you lonesome tonight?". Jeroen Wuyts, who did the video, set, and sound design for this production, also must be celebrated for his work on the show. The video installations were a integral part of the play and were a strong enough that they could stand alone in a gallery as a work of art.


I wish I could have had a chance to see the partner piece, BigMouth. It would have been interesting to see what the contrasting voice for SmallWaR was; what the opposite side of the coin is. I hope any HKELD readers who had a chance to see it or both pieces would share their thoughts with me on how they worked together. If you have a chance to get your hands on a ticket to this production, you must see it. 


SmallWaR is playing through March 6th. For more information, click here. 


Photo credit: Inge Lauwers


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Rate This Show: 1 2 3 4 5 Audience Rating: 5.0


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