Dangerous situations are relatively common in certain types of magic performances. Usually, the magician at least tries to find the right balance to ensure that the audience does not feel too uncomfortable or worried about them. In Illusions of Depression, Paul Regan consciously blasts right past those boundaries. He does not do this solely for the shock value, but uses the discomfort that he creates to make his points about society as a whole and societal views of mental health specifically. Regan starts his show with a trigger warning that is perhaps worth publicizing to those considering attending Illusions of Depression, that it does discuss themes of mental illness, self-harm, and suicide.*
Regan starts out relatively gently, performing his creative take on a classic dangerous magic trick. He uses that trick and his enhancement of it to lead into his discussion of a bit of basic social psychology. This is by no means an exhaustive lecture on the topic that he brings up, but he does present an admirably balanced view given the inherent time constraints of his show. His performance becomes both more dangerous and more personal as it progresses. He continues in his examination of societal issues, but also talks at greater length about his personal mental health struggles.
That being said, he has a few lovely moments. An early sleight of hand trick becomes a charming analysis of the importance of interpersonal connections, and equally the importance of accepting that varying degrees of individual differences mean that some might stand out from a crowd more than others. This is a delightful demonstration of Regan’s fantastic fusion of magic with the stories that he tells. Regan is also caring in his interactions with his audience—which is perhaps especially appropriate given his theme of mental health. He generally requests volunteers, especially for the more involved participant roles. Regan has an especially touching bit with one participant toward the end, using mind reading tropes in an especially conscientious manner.
There are a few issues in Regan’s sleight of hand work, with the odd prop noticeable at the wrong time. This is occasionally briefly distracting, but his performance is multifaceted enough to cover for any such errors.
In Illusions of Depression, Regan uses magic effectively to make his case about mental health. His dangerous stunts do often go further than is really necessary to convey this case to his audience. The audience gets the impression that, to a certain extent, this excessive danger is included in the show for Regan’s benefit rather than their own. If that is truly the case then I genuinely hope that Regan gets what he is looking for out of his run at the Fringe.
* Note: Paul Regan’s flyers do include a trigger warning.