In Storyteller, Billy Reid structures his performance around stories from his childhood, using magic to illustrate them and bring them to life. “Illustrate” is perhaps the key word here, as aside from being incredibly well performed, Reid’s magic tricks are more often than not exceptionally aesthetically pleasing.
Reid sets this tone from his first card trick. He starts it classically enough, with an audience participant picking a card that Reid then shuffles back in to his deck, but when the cards start changing to match the story that Reid tells, the fact that in the end he successfully finds the right card is actually the least exciting part of the act. The artistic trend continues in Reid’s mentalist tricks, as he reads a volunteer’s mind by painting the scene that she is thinking of on a canvas on stage, his firm and decisive brush strokes keeping the audience engaged in trying to work out the final image.
Like all of this year’s solo shows at MagicFest, Storyteller is performed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and one of Reid’s tricks in particular would not look out of place in one of their exhibitions. Reid uses a blank card deck that he has illustrated himself to tell the story of his love for Scotland in a trick that showcases both his magical and artistic skills. This is a particularly inventive highlight of Reid’s beautifully creative show.
Reid’s tricks rely on audience participation just as much as any other magician’s, but Reid is notable in that he invites volunteers to step forward before randomly selecting a participant himself. While both approaches have their merits, Reid’s worked for him in that his volunteers were visibly excited to participate, and the shyer members of his audience were presumably a little bit less stressed. It is certainly more enjoyable to watch audience participants who participate enthusiastically.
Storyteller is a gorgeous production. One of the personal details that Reid shares is that as a child he was passionate about his art classes, which is no surprise to his audience after seeing this show. Reid smoothly combines his illustrative and performance skills into a remarkable experience.