Stage Mentalism

#DAVE: CULT OF DAVE

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint why people choose their line of work, but Dave Alnwick does not leave his audience guessing why he became a magician: he wants you to join his cult.

In his “Cult of Dave” show, Alnwick makes the case for why he should be accepted into everyone’s hearts and minds as a God. He does this by performing his mentalist tricks and then giving the audience tips on how they can use the theories behind those tricks in their everyday lives. If they join his cult, he promises, he will teach them all of his skills.

This tutorial style makes his show especially interesting to watch. Alnwick reveals just enough to give the audience a greater appreciation for the difficulty of what he does. Some of his lessons do feel useful—advice on how to force a choice, or tips on how to tell whether or not someone is lying—although it is clear that these skills work best in the hands of a naturally charismatic individual like Alnwick.

It is that charisma that really makes this show fun. Alnwick has a great wit and charm that makes him entertaining to watch on stage, regardless of what he is doing. Even when he asks multiple members of the audience to choose numbers in preparation for his impressive final trick, he makes this potentially dull groundwork into an enjoyable part of his performance. He is the kind of performer who could probably make reading the dictionary into an entertaining show.

Alnwick does run in to the same problem as many other Free Fringe performers, in that the venues they perform in often have issues with outside noise permeating the main theatre. However, Alnwick reacted to this professionally and did not allow it to derail his show, and his excellent vocal projection was certainly appreciated at that juncture.

The “Cult of Dave” is a delightful show, both for magic enthusiasts and for anyone who just enjoys comedic live theatre. Alnwick skillfully controls his audience, creating impressive illusions while dispensing life advice in an incredibly fun performance.

CHRIS COOK: CONTROL

In his show “Control”, Chris Cook speaks a lot about not feeling in control of his life, and even says that he does not have complete control over what will happen in that show. But this is only partially correct- Cook quickly captivates his audience, and easily controls their full attention for the entire hour of his set.

Cook primarily performs sleight of hand tricks, and these are reliably inventive and surprising. It is a testament to his abilities that when he made a mess of a tomato that he ate onstage and took a moment to clean his hands, one almost expected he was about to reveal a new, uneaten tomato from the wreckage. His real tricks, however, are even more impressive.

Control includes many timely political references that both ingratiate Cook with the more liberal members of the audience, and help tie his tricks in to the story line of his show. Whether it’s a quick joke about mourning the death of the European Union, or Cook taking the time to read from and criticize Donald Trump’s book before using it as a prop in his next trick, the show decidedly favours the political left. American members of the audience in particular might be especially satisfied to find that Trump’s book does not emerge unscathed from its role in the show.

While the majority of Cook’s show does focus on sleight of hand, he does veer briefly into mentalism in an unexpectedly heartwarming final segment. His more serious themes are predominantly present as an undercurrent for the rest of the show, but here they take centre stage. Cook captivates the audience with his tricks and wit, and then uses that control over his viewers to instill his message of hope and motivation.

Cook’s “Control” is an excellent show that is definitely worth watching. Cook’s magic is creatively and skillfully performed. He excels both in performing big impressive tricks, and in creating small surprisingly magical moments in between the main illusions. In the end, it is his modesty that is particularly charming. Rather than using his considerable charisma solely to control his audience for the duration of the show, he gives that control back by inspiring us to exert what control we can over our own lives.

CASPAR THOMAS: MORE MAGIC AND MENTALISM

Caspar Thomas’s “More Magic and Mentalism” act does not rely on the padding of a theme or series of stories. It is, instead, a solid hour of magic tricks linked only by Thomas’s cheerful and free flowing banter.

Thomas uses this format to showcase his variety of magical skills. This show includes everything—card tricks, objects vanishing into thin air only to be summoned back in to existence, magically accurate deductive reasoning, and the classic magic rings. While accidents do happen, and audience members in the front two rows might notice the glitter and clink of supposedly “vanished” coins a split second before they are scheduled to re-appear, these tricks are, on the whole, performed with precision and skill.

This skill is what sets Thomas’s act apart, and makes his show worthwhile. The large crowd that gathered outside the venue for Thomas’s Friday evening performance was evidence that his expertise is notable and appreciated. Additionally, his act is handy for newcomers to magic, as it takes them through a quick introduction to the varieties of magic that are common amongst modern magicians.

One particularly commendable feature of Thomas’s act is that he makes a point of requesting volunteers before randomly choosing them from the audience. It is common knowledge that all attendants of magic shows are fair game to be chosen by the magician and paraded about the stage, which can be very intimidating. Magicians like Thomas make their acts much more approachable.

A negative feature of note is the poorly situated venue. Loud conversation and amateur singing could be heard at several points throughout the performance. Thomas successfully played it off in front of the audience, which is why these disruptions did not spoil the show, but it would surely be even better if he could reach an understanding with the others in the venue to ensure that he commands the full attention of his audience.

Thomas’s “More Magic” show is unpretentiously enjoyable magic. This act goes for breadth over depth without sacrificing quality or amusement, making for a great show.

COLIN CLOUD: DARE

The long, winding queue full of people waiting to see Colin Cloud’s “Dare” this evening attests to his undeniable renown. It can be so easy, as an ordinary audience member, to dismiss mind reading magic as an elaborate network of actors in league with the magician, or as normal people playing along with the magician out of compassion and pity. But despite those uncertainties, Cloud’s mind reading act clearly resonates with his substantial fan base, and it is easy to understand why.

Cloud frequently references his fascination with cults, and this becomes a theme throughout his performance, although without overwhelming his illusions. Whether it’s instructing the entire audience to wear masks of his own face or enjoying his ability to get the audience to clap on command, Cloud’s playful acknowledgement of his own charisma sets a lighthearted tone for the evening.

This is perhaps what gives Cloud’s show its broad appeal. While most of the crowd on a Saturday evening appeared to be adults, it was easy to imagine a higher percentage of families with young children attending on summer weekday evenings. Cloud is fascinating enough to hold adults’ attention, and his tricks are entertaining enough to engage with younger audiences.

Magicians who perform mind reading tricks generally employ measures to convince the audience of their integrity. Cloud’s most interesting procedure to this effect is to take advantage of the ubiquity of social media. Early on in the show, Cloud requests that everyone post an embarrassing secret or shameful desire to social media using the hashtag #colinclouddare. He later guesses individuals’ secrets, and invites the audience to check his accuracy by reading through that hashtag. This clever blend of magic and social media marketing proves to be a delightful way of involving the audience in the act.

Colin Cloud delivers classic mind reading magic in a show for all the ages, and sets himself apart by incorporating social media in fun and interesting ways. Cloud then links this back in to his theme of cults to neatly bind his act together. The net effect is a solidly enjoyable evening of magical entertainment. Cloud describes himself as a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and his Fringe show is definitive evidence in favour of that claim—with the caveat that, unlike a detective, a magician never reveals his secrets.

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAYDINI

After Hayden Childress (aka Haydini)’s recent performance in Charlotte (review here), he gave reviewer Hannah R. the chance to chat with him a bit about his passion for magic.

Hannah: On your website it says you started performing magic when you were ten years old. What inspired you to start learning magic?

Hayden: I was always into weird things when I was younger. I can remember there was this Disney Channel Original Movie called Now You See Me, and during the commercial breaks they would teach magic tricks. I learned them and showed them to my family and friends and started from there.

Who would you say are some magicians and performers who inspire you?

I had the privilege to perform with Mack King in Las Vegas. What I really enjoy about his shows is how the magic comes from the crowd. Of course I also look up to people like David Copperfield and Penn & Teller.

We already know about your passion for magic, so what are some other hobbies you enjoy?

I really like learning languages and love music as well. I also enjoy being outdoors and hiking. I don’t own a lot and am pretty minimalistic; I like having experiences more than things.

You mentioned in your show you recently graduated from college. Do you feel you’ve been able to incorporate what you’ve learned into your performances?

Well, I went to business school so I’ve definitely been able to use what I learned in terms of marketing, merchandise, etc. As far as magic I always found data collection and its use interesting and I definitely like to see how I can apply that to magic by attempting to make correct predictions based on what I know.

You’re making quite a name for yourself in Charlotte and the audience really enjoyed your show. What do you have planned for the future?

My goals would have to be bigger shows and more cities. A lot of people who don’t live near big cities don’t have access to magic and I’d love to be able to take my show to places like that and give them a show they wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

If you’d like to see Haydini or learn more about him, visit his website

HAYDINI

You can often conjecture how well a magic show will play out just by taking a glance around the theatre. As I scanned the room for the best available seats, I couldn’t help but notice the demographics of the crowd; while there was a wide array of ages in attendance, there was definitely a large amount of children. While this isn’t necessarily a negative fact, I was initially concerned that either the magic would be catered to those who are younger or the act would struggle with child volunteers. I am pleased to say that I was proven wrong.

Our evening began with an introduction from the show’s “sponsor”, a Mr. N. S. A. touting the omnipresence of suggestive advertising and personal data collection. This small dip into suggestibility would be a common theme running through the evening. Haydini then presented us with the set up for an excellent reveal at the end of the show. Following this he quickly delved into a myriad of entertaining and well-executed sets, varying from sleight-of-hand to feats of mentalism. Each reveal earned him well deserved applause, impressing even the most discerning of audience members.

Haydini certainly excelled in incorporating the audience into his acts. He allowed individuals to choose whether they would like to participate, as opposed to selecting members who may be uncomfortable in the spotlight. Our magician worked well with each volunteer regardless of their age, which I’m sure you can guess is no easy task. His skill in improvisation allowed for him to adapt and make a situation comic that may have become awkward in the hands of a less skilled performer.

His improv skills certainly came of use during the show, as there were many times his technician was having issues with sound and light cues, which probably could have been fixed with a bit more rehearsing. While it did detract from the show a bit, Haydini managed each blip professionally and didn’t let the technical difficulties steal the show.

Ultimately, Haydini provides a fun, entertaining show that holds your attention throughout the entire evening. I would recommend his show to family and friends of all ages. The variety of his performance and the skill to which it was executed was captivating and attested to his prowess as a magician and performer. As he so aptly stated, “Anybody can cut you in half, but only a magician can put you back together.”

THE ILLUSIONISTS

☆☆☆☆

The Illusionists claim to be the “largest touring show in magic history anywhere,” but it is not just in size that they dominate the stage magic world. This show features a broad breadth of magic sub-fields, ensuring that no matter what style sparks your interest, there’s something spectacular for you at this performance.

The magical emcee of the Illusionists is Jeff Hobson, whose showmanship is the greatest boon to the performance as a whole. This comedy magician has a grandiose, flamboyant persona and wickedly slick wit, with a clever crack at the ready no matter what his volunteers or the audience do. Not only are the jokes fast but his hands as well, and in one memorable case, his tongue.

Attending a magic show, an audience expects to see some things they can’t explain. But having the thoughts plucked right out of their minds has it’s own special shock value. This illusion is delivered by Colin Cloud. Billed as ‘the Deductionist,’ the comparisons to Sherlock Holmes are blatant. Funnier than Benedict Cumberbatch and more dapper than Jeremy Brett, Cloud’s astute predictions are both impressive and terrifying.

Andrew Basso is  ‘The Escapologist’, and recreates one of Houdini’s greatest feats, the Water Torture Cell. Although, if the reaction of the ladies in the audience is any indication, he’s a bit more fit than his inspiration. It’s a bonus for them that the cell walls are clear, so we can see exactly how Basso expertly breaks out of his bonds, even under the intense pressure of holding his breath for several minutes.

Anti- Conjurer Dan Sperry strikes an attitude contrast to his peers, with no geniality to offer Sperry instead has a sullen menace that pairs appropriately with his wince-worthy tricks. No matter how desperate you are to see what’s going down, it takes a brave soul to peek through their fingers at this grotesque magic.

Rounding out the cast are ‘The Inventor’ Kevin James, with dramatic displays of craftily constructed magic, ‘The Manipulator’ Halim An with a beautifully choreographed sleight of hand, and ‘The Daredevil’ Jonathan Goodwin with heart-stoppingly stressful stunts that are also much to the credit of his assistants.

It is perhaps not a straight-forward compliment to say that the Illusionists are like magical hors d’oeuvres. Delivering short performances in rapid- fire, you never exactly feel like you’ve gotten the meat of the magic show, or like you’ve gotten to see each individual magician at their best. Just when you get attached to one flavor of magic, you’re two conjurers later. But there is an undeniable benefit to this recipe, that even if one magician isn’t to your taste, you get at least three more that are. Food metaphors aside, because they’re getting labored, The Illusionists is the perfect magic show to make you realize that you do actually like magic shows.

March 29, Heymann Performing Arts Center, Lafayette LA.

More information about the Illusionists and further dates of their tour can be found here.