Category: magic

The Illusionists: direct from Broadway

Who doesn’t love a little bit of magic?

By Leeor Adar

Prepare to be completely astonished and awed, as the glamour and trickery of The Illusionists returns to Aussie shores where all the magic began. Simon Painter and Tim Lawson’s inspired production has been tantalising audiences for almost a decade, performing in 350 cities and 35 countries. It’s an unstoppable phenomenon and is as expected, a hallmark of society’s fascination with the dark and seductive grandeur of smoke and mirrors.

The Illusionists features an array of extraordinary talent, who’ve honed their skills and showmanship to mastery. Expect to see the classics: card tricks, femme fatale’s being sawn in half, a bit of the old spook and plenty of laughs. It’s a seriously family-friendly show, and children are delighted to watch and frequently be included in some of the on-stage antics. If audience participation terrifies you, this is not for you. But if you don’t mind a bit of schadenfreude at the hapless individuals who find themselves in the cross-fire of a joke, you’ve really come to the right place.

Featuring some of the most celebrated tricksters from across the globe, one can expect a little bit of something for everyone’s personal tastes.

Paul Dabek as The Trickster is our delightfully scathing master of ceremonies. Dabek’s British flair and wit make for a perfect segue into various acts, and he certainly gets the audience laughing. Humour abounds in this show, and Dabek is joined by Chris Cox as The Mentalist, whose name really lends itself to the type of humour he indulges us in. Cox is another British boss with a stellar repertoire, and his games of guessing leave the audience shaking in both disbelief and fits of laughter as well as awe for those who were subject to his astonishing mind reading.

Mexico’s Leonardo Bruno as The Alchemist is a crowd pleaser, he melts the hearts of his audience with the dancing tissue act, and tissue snow storm for the seriously smaller members of the audience. Bruno’s charm and warmth make him a highly likeable addition to the magical family.

Australia’s own, Sam Powers as The Enigma is both tempting and terrifying as he utilises his astonishing physical endurance honed by NASA technology (actually?). Powers’ execution of the flaming trap trick while being strapped upside down in a straitjacket makes for some tense moments, and I certainly had to look away. Although, don’t be fooled, these guys know what they’re doing with all the tech in the world. Considering Houdini stalked this territory long before without modern trappings astonishes me even more. I certainly wouldn’t survive what Powers can do with elegance and ease.

All the way from France, Florian Sainvet as The Manipulator gives us his science fiction flair wielding cards in a space suit. I found myself less as enthusiastic with this piece, but was later delighted by his street card trick antics and audience interaction – an area he really shines in.

At the crux of the show, Jinger Leigh as The Conjuress and her Showman husband performed by Mark Kalin, love to excite and stir the audience with their large-scale Houdini style illusions. Leigh’s saucy quality lends perfectly to her glowing ball illusion, adding an enchanting quality to the show. For myself and my partner, the most memorable moment of the night came with Leigh and Kalin’s ring trick, which has to be seen to be believed. Taking three rings from audience members, Leigh somehow managed to merge them all to our absolute disbelief. As promised, I’d never look at rings the same way again.

If anything, The Illusionists could close its show on a more grandiose scale than was provided. We were both thrilled with The Illusionists, and vowed to make a beeline for Vegas to catch more shows like this. The larger-than-life tricks, humour and pure showmanship make for an exciting few hours with these amazing performers. I highly recommend to absolutely everyone I know, whether aged 5 or 95.

The Illusionists runs for one week only at the Regent Theatre, Melbourne. Tickets are available online for Saturday 26 and Sunday 27 January or by calling the box office on 136 100. 

*Robyn Sharpe “The Warrior” was not featured in the 22 January show.

Photograph: Laura Osborne (AKA Digital) 


Review: Moments in Time

Melbourne Magic Festival presents Moments in Time

By Joana Simmons

Josh Staley is one magician to watch very closely. And even when you watch him closely, you will still be amazed how he does it. In his new show, Moments in Time, as part of the Melbourne Magic Festival, he wows audiences countless times with close up magic and feats that are incomprehensible. Wednesday night’s full house were gasping and cheering the whole way through as the young, unassuming magician made many memorable moments in time.

We were each given a deck of cards to shuffle before the show, which was just the beginning of a lot more audience involvement. His personal stories were peppered throughout the performance, loosely based around memorable moments. He created many unforgettable instances as he has his way with cards, sleight of hand and what I could only call, mind reading. There was so much tension and mystery, that when it was finally eased or revealed, it had me beaming and cheering.

The second half of the show just got better and better. Staley brought it to a climax when he was not only able to pick one card chosen from the deck by an audience member, but eight cards. This occurred even when people forgot their cards, he was always able to find the right one. The crowd cheered for more, and Staley delivered an encore which left us amazed.

The praise I have for Moments in Time outweighs the critique. However, I must mention I struggled to fully connect to Staley some of the time as he didn’t make much eye contact with the audience. This is something which could be seen as endearing and approachable, but if his stage presence were as strong as his magic, then he would be an unstoppable force. It’s difficult for one person to hold the attention of an audience for 50 minutes regardless of what they do, but with more variety along with his wonderful ease and improvised banter, Moments in Time, would be a powerful combination.

We say time is precious, and that we never have enough. Sometimes, we forget to be in the moment and see all the joy within each minute. Josh Staley reminds us of how one moment can spark a joyful memory to last a lifetime. This is a show that will give you something to remember, and for more than one moment, will have you believing in magic.

Moments in Times is being performed until 14 July at The Secret Room Collingwood. Tickets can be purchased online.  For the The Melbourne Magic Festival’s complete program take a look at their official website. Tickets are also available by calling the box office on 1800 710 499.


Review: The Best of the Magic Fest

An evening of rogue and riveting magic

By Joana Simmons

The Melbourne Magic Festival is adding a twinkle in the eye and sparkle of delight to these cold July weeks. I was treated with tickets to The Best of the Magic Fest which is a chance for audiences to meet different guest magicians every night, a chance to laugh, gasp and wonder how they do it. Hosted by multi-award-winning magician, comedian and all-around swell guy Nicholas J. Johnson, the Friday night show presented its full house with three charismatic experts: Mr Marmalade, Tim Ellis and Lawrence Leung.

It’s hard to review or retell magic without giving anything away. Nothing really can replicate the wondrous feeling of delight that springs from the flourish of the magicians’ tricks. The types of magic used were close-up, sleight of hand, storytelling, telekinesis and telepathy. Host, Nicholas J. Johnson, warmed up the expectant crowd with his take on some old favorites. The thing that I loved most was how upfront and raw it was, in an intimate venue and with each magician’s spontaneous banter it was edgy and stripped back.

Johnson kept the pace rolling as he threw in a few tricks between each act, making us feel both at home and transported to this wonderful world. Magician number one, Mr Marmalade, was as smooth as a dram of Laphroaig 10 and more dapper than the man on the Hendricks bottle. He crafted a multidimensional performance with quirky physicality and sultry tones. At one point he dropped a few cards which made the expectant air of “is he going to get it” even more exciting.

Next, award winning magician and Artistic Director of MMF Tim Ellis, told a story with cards and class. Ellis included some delightful audience participation that was refined rather than naff, and boasted an overall polished presence in a luxe velvet blazer. The final magician, Lawrence Leung, was relaxed, lovable and brilliant. Telekinesis and telepathy usually makes me tip my head to the side skeptically, but he completely proved me wrong. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take notes, all I wrote was “WOW”.

The staging was simple and suited the The Secret Room at Circus Oz. It emphasised the skill of the magicians who didn’t need any flashy lights, backdrop or water tanks to have their audience whooping and cheering. My only critique is that many of the tricks were performed on a table and from where I was sitting I couldn’t see everything, and the people around me also ducked their heads to catch a glimpse. There are countless moments in this show you really don’t want to miss.

The Best of the Magic Fest is a great night with variety, cheek and high-class magic that makes you put your hand to your face wondering what is going to happen next. What’s brilliant about magic is how it brings out the child in all of us, and this show does exactly that and wraps it in an enjoyable adult package. It’s a perfect introduction for the rest of the Melbourne Magic Festival’s July program.

The Melbourne Magic Festival runs 2 – 14 July in a range of exciting Melbourne venues. Take a look at their official website for program and ticket details. Tickets are also available by calling the box office on 1800 710 499.