Magic acts come in many forms – there’s the showy over-the-top, bells and whistles affair, the old-style homage to traditional tricks and charming sleight of hand, the escapology that defies death, and of course the people who can read your minds and tell you what you had for breakfast two days ago even if you don’t remember it yourself. (Those are my favourite!) The Illusionists has all of these, and more.
Opening with laser-lights, big screens, flashy music and all the hype of a Blockbuster movie trailer, The Illusionists promises big things – and it delivers! Our host is Jewish comedian and mentalist, ‘The Trickster’ Harrison Greenbaum and he is super sharp and savvy. In all honesty, Perth audiences are notoriously hard to impress – a feature that Greenbaum deftly turns back on the crowd. He is flashy, brazen and a little cocky – but he has a right to be – he does some pretty impressive predicting with a great sense of humour to boot.
Next come the flashy bits – ‘The Deceptionist’ James More impales himself on a sword, ramping up the old stand-by of sword swallowing. He is also the last act – performing a daring escape complete with fire and nail-biting timing.
‘The Inventor’ Kevin James sits somewhere between flashy and traditional. He wears the white coat and goggles of a mad scientist as he beams out at a captivated audience. His charm transcends the stage as he performs amazing sleight of hand tricks – your jaw will drop as he saws a man clean in half and there isn’t a mirror or whiff of smoke to be seen.
When it comes to charm, no-one compares to Raymond Crowe ‘The Unusualist.’ What is an unusualist? Crowe uses traditional showmanship with an obvious love of his craft. He creates a hilarious ventriloquist act – no dummy required, unless you count the audience ‘volunteers,’ performs a wonderful card trick (I still don’t know how!) and provides a beautiful moment of repose with his homage to shadow-puppetry. Crowe is simply charming.
It is another quiet moment that ekes out the true magic of the show – the harmonious and elegant Al Halim aka ‘The Manipulator’ takes card tricks and strips away all the pizzazz and tackiness to create a beautiful dance. He pulls cards from thin air and does so with the stillness and simplicity of a ballerina.
Most people know the name Houdini – but they should know the name Jonathan Goodwin, ‘The Daredevil.’ Goodwin takes Houdini’s famous escape from a straightjacket and turns up the heat…literally! Setting himself on fire, he remains cool under pressure – the audience squirms more. Later, Goodwin’s assistants are in the firing line when he performs an act that you have to see to believe. I felt myself unconsciously retreating in my seat, pressing back as far as I could go!
For me, it’s all about the mentalist experience. Colin Cloud ‘The Deductionist’ is flawless. With a background in criminology, Cloud will have you sweating with his amazing powers of what can only be described as devil-worshipping supernatural mind-reading. All jokes aside, Cloud drops jaws like no other. He knows stuff you couldn’t possibly know about a stranger (hell, I still don’t know some of that stuff about my partner!) Stripping back the wonder, it is clear that he is a keen observer – he even teaches you a little about his technique, if you care to listen. I’ve got to be honest, though, I have no explanation for his major trick – there are too many variables for him to get the answer he does!
Beginning with a flash and a bang, and ending the same way, the big illusion is performed, it’s so good it literally puts you on the edge of your seat. Of course, Halim’s epilogue sparks the wonder and true magic the evening is based on. So, yes The Illusionists is a big, flashy show, but it is also one with deep respect and admiration for the elegance of magic. Go and see it – there’s something for everyone.