Band of Magicians

Riverside Theatre, January 10

Band of Magicians res
And for my next trick… Photo: Ben Rushton.

The trick with magic shows is to pretend you are six years old – and I don’t mean you get someone else to pay. I mean you try to accept what you see as “magic” rather than tying your brain in Gordian how-did-they-do-that knots. No magicians worth their wands are going to let you see through the illusion, so why try? You will only drive yourself to perplexity, exasperation, distraction, and other stops on the route to madness.

Band of Magicians consists of Justin Flom, Justin Willman and Nate Staniforth from the US and Sydney’s James Galea, who conceived of the foursome. Like hula hoops, magic is making a comeback, but these new magicians come on more like stand-up comics than faculty members from Hogwarts. All were amusing (especially Willman), likeable, had some very good tricks up their sleeves (or elsewhere), and made extensive use of audience victimisation (sometimes known as participation).

If you sensed a “but” coming you should have been in Staniforth’s mind-reading routine. It’s this: if you can’t regress to being six again, and you’re sitting there knowing you’re being conned, but unable (or not disposed) to work out how, then a little more theatricality would not have gone astray. The only real example was a remarkable identity switch between Willman and Galea, which lifted the show after all the sleight-of-hand numbers and the rest.

Whether good magic or bad, should this really be part of something that still calls itself an arts festival? It would probably have fared perfectly well as a strictly commercial venture. But that is a “now you see it, now you don’t” argument, isn’t it?

By the way, did you know that if you add up the number of words in this review, and then add together the numerals in that total, it will tell you the year in which you were gullible enough to do something that was a complete waste of time?