Review: A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling

If you’ve previously read my reviews (or not!) you may be familiar with a personal rule that I have concerning the amazing talented, magical character that is Lucy Darling (performed by Carisa Hendrix): I always try to see each of Lucy’s performances twice. There are usually many reasons for this, but the main reasons being that Lucy is a champion of continuous improvement – she continually makes tweaks to portions of her show; and the audience member interactions change all the time – every show of hers is a chance anew for fun banter with the audience.

A number of weeks ago I saw one of Lucy Darling’s first sets of online shows. If you didn’t catch that review, it is here). As you may expect, I have returned for another serving, and once again Lucy Darling blew away all of my expectations (as she often does). ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ is an interactive online show full of magic and a variety of unexpected surprises. For those who have seen her earlier shows, this show includes some unmistakeable enhancements.

Personal highlights: too many routines and magical moments to list! Each one of Lucy’s shows is filled to the brim with highlights. In terms of the wit and comedy, I almost had to mute myself because I was laughing so much during the show. Like many of us, Lucy has (recently?) taken up a special hobby and demonstrates this during her show – prompting many laughs and much enjoyment for the audience. Lucy’s charming and comedic house managers / butlers, Marcy and Laurence returned for this show series, which pleased me greatly. Their facial expressions and witty comments bring extra dimensions to the performance. This show also featured the return of the ‘Caption Contest’. Lucy does not lie when she mentions that audience members return for that segment (well that and to see the divine Lucy herself of course!) One aspect I particularly liked was the variety of ‘cut in’ scenes during the show. Yes, the ‘cut in’ scenes were pre recorded but they helped to add variety and bring some extra elements into the show. The audience were treated to a plethora of magic and curious effects throughout the entire show, which is an enhancement in itself as it felt like ‘a magic show plus more’. There’s even an unmissable montage at the end of the show too which I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed. My eyes were shining with happiness during the final montage.

Suffice to say, if you haven’t had the online pleasure of a Lucy Darling show NOW IS YOUR CHANCE! Do not delay, buy a ticket today!!!! I was grinning like the Cheshire Cat all throughout ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ and it can’t get much better than that. If you have seen one of Lucy’s shows before (even if that was in her previous show run) there is still plenty of magical, fun moments for you to enjoy in this show too.

VERDICT: Lucy Darling has outdone herself again! ‘A Fun Night In with Lucy Darling’ is filled with surprises from start to finish and has MORE of everything: more flourishes, more astonishment, more hilarity.

Lucy Darling has a very short online season of magic shows. Tickets and more information: https://www.thelucydarling.com/lucy-at-home/

Review: A Night At The Laneway Theatre

Well known Melbourne magician Tim Ellis runs The Laneway Theatre, which is a wonderful little magic theatre tucked away in a laneway of inner city Melbourne. Of course, with Metropolitan Melbourne still being in lockdown, there are no physical visitors / audience members allowed in the theatre. Given this, Tim Ellis has provided a virtual weekly ‘Night At The Laneway Theatre’ show over zoom for audiences to enjoy and to spread entertainment and cheer during what has been a difficult time for many.

Recently, I attended one of these weekly shows, to see what all the fuss was about and I must say I was not disappointed! The audience members selected to leave their mics and videos on certainly put the ‘fun’ in front row! In regards to the magic itself much of it was surprising, eliciting gasps of surprise from audience members. During the show, there were some impressive predictions on display, plus some card magic that audience members could follow along with (which I particularly enjoyed). Some great close up effects were featured (and yes, they did appear up close despite viewing the show on a screen!) This was a very fun, light-hearted show, and one in which every person is given the chance to become a magician. Tim also included a poignant piece of storytelling magic which was enjoyable (as well as a surprise encore!) ‘A Night At The Laneway Theatre’ is a show that has it all. If you need further convincing, one young audience member repeatedly remarked “Best Magician EVER!” into the microphone at regular intervals during the show – you can’t get a better testament than that!

The show I attended even included a mini tour of The Laneway Theatre itself (complete with it’s own spooky corner, creepy entrance and special props here and there). Tim Ellis also included some nostalgic footage of his past escapes and televised magic shows which left an impression on him which was a nice touch.

VERDICT: With many surprises for lucky and unsuspecting audience volunteers, ‘A Night at The Laneway Theatre’ is a very entertaining show that is easy to enjoy and appeals to a wide range of ages. Highly recommended.

EDIT: There have been new show announcements! The next ‘Night at The Laneway Theatre’ will be on October 16th. There are also some special spooky shows planned. Please visit the link below for more information and a calendar of events at The Laneway Theatre:
https://thelanewaytheatre.com/

Review: “The Impossible Zoom Experiment”

Talented magicians Eric Chien (from China) and Dom Chambers (from Australia) have combined their formidable magic forces in “The Impossible Zoom Experiment”. Both magicians have appeared on popular television and magical theatre shows (America’s Got Talent, Penn & Teller: Fool Us, and The Illusionists on Broadway) but have very different magic styles. The magical forces of Eric Chien and Dom Chambers combine to create what I believe is a simply unmissable show.

The fact the show takes place over Zoom usually presents magicians with some challenges, but these magicians have harnessed and overcome those challenges to present an unbelievable, unforgettable hour of magic. Hosting, performing and producing this show is no mean feat in itself – with the show being broadcast over zoom, with vision from Australia and China being linked. Not to mention the magicians rehearsing and remotely writing such a show.

There are elements within “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” that you’d find in many magic shows – pieces featuring playing cards and predictions – but Eric and Dom just take everything to that next level, and it showed all night in the reactions of the audience members. There were many squeals of delight and surprise and many sounds that I can only interpret as the audience being frequently astonished with what they saw. Minds were being blown all over zoom – the magic was that amazing. When I attend magic shows in person, I often get this feeling of excitement of what’s to come and I had that feeling all throughout this show. “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” is filled with highlights, but a personal highlight of mine was Eric Chien’s FISM award winning routine set to music. Mind = Blown. I couldn’t believe my eyes and I’m sure you won’t either. The disbelief was palpable.

Eric and Dom themselves are wonderful performers and hosts. Being so incredibly talented, you may expect some ego to be on display but there was none here. By the end of the show it felt like everyone was friends, it was a nice communal feeling (despite everyone being separated by a screen).

“The Impossible Zoom Experiment” truly is an unbelievable, unforgettable show that will have you questioning what really is in the realm of (im)possibility. Impossibilities can be explored virtually, and this show does it all with superb flair.

VERDICT: “The Impossible Zoom Experiment” validates that being behind a screen is no barrier to incredible magic (that often seems impossible) and certainly no barrier to a mind blowing evening of entertainment. If there’s any virtual magic show to be experienced for yourself, it’s this one!

Tickets / more information – see the link below. More show dates will be announced soon.
https://www.dominicchambers.com/impossiblezoom

Online platform tips to enhance your virtual magic show

While I’ve been spending over 100 days working from home, with each day including at least one meeting over an online platform plus spending my non-working hours watching magic and variety performances over online platforms, I’m beginning to see some trends of how online platforms can be well utilised to enhance shows. Bearing in mind that I am not a performer myself – but I am a BIG FAN of magic (a very regular audience member) and am a live (and now online) entertainment reviewer- however a friend has asked me to compile some tips for harnessing online platforms to enhance the show for the audience. These tips are mainly from an audience member and ticket purchaser’s perspective and the specifics mentioned are in relation to the online platform Zoom. I know there are alternative platforms out there; however the majority of the online magic shows I’ve seen so far have been hosted via Zoom. Regardless of your choice of online platform, the messages and suggestions here remain the same.

If you’re reading this and you’ve already completed many online performances (not just magic as I’m sure these tips can be great for variety acts too), or you’re just totally tech savvy then feel free not to read further – although you may like to share this post with others. If you do have some tips of your own that aren’t listed below that you’d like to share with me / for me to share with others (potentially in a future blog post) you’re welcome to send them to tayaroundtown@gmail.com. Otherwise, read on to discover some tips that you may like to consider for your next online show.

Before the show: email your audience members a reminder of the show and include any important instructions and of course, links.
Most online magic shows I’ve attended will mention that the “show foyer” is open 15 minutes prior to show time. This is great as it allows me to set up my desk and test my headset / mic and also allows me to greet any friends that are in the audience and greet the performer. This also allows the audience to be settled and ready for the actual show at the advertised time. For your performance, you may like audience members to have a pen and paper or deck of cards ready (or other props) and a reminder email is a good method for that too. Some shows have even encouraged the audience members to dress up / wear special hats and these aspects can also be mentioned in a reminder.

One time a show ‘sign in’ / foyer time wasn’t communicated in an email prior to a show, and I didn’t get the notification in social media until much later. It ended up just being by chance that I happened to join at the best time. Best to not leave things to chance, especially for online shows!

Consider having a slide / image or a message appear in advance of the show, when people enter the ‘meeting room’.
This image or message can have some ‘house rules’ on it for people to read. i.e for everyone to mute themselves, or perhaps let audience members know if you want them to leave their cameras on (or not). Seeing this is written text and then having the performer mention this verbally is great reinforcement for the audience. It also helps to set the tone of the show and prevents audience distractions during the show (i.e. people constantly telling others to mute). This also allows a performer to concentrate on the magical performance, rather than having to remember too many technical instructions and reminders for the audience. Also make sure you mention to the audience if the show is going to be recorded or not.

During a show I recently attended, some tech related instructions were somewhat hastily communicated to the audience just before show time and it was challenging to decipher exactly what was being asked of the audience, especially as two people mentioned conflicting items and button locations! It was all sorted out swiftly but as an audience member it’s hard to know what to do when your brain approaches ‘panic mode’ as you scramble to find the right button at the last minute. In another show, not everyone was getting the message to mute themselves, and having another audience member verbally tell the other person to mute then use the chat window to say the same thing became distracting.

Ensure you have a virtual “tech desk” or tech assistant: a person who is on hand (and is made ‘co-host’) purely to address any technical issues or needs.
The most seamless and well organised online performances I’ve seen have all had an online tech desk / tech assistant who sits in the background and makes sure that things run as smoothly as they can. This doesn’t mean that you won’t have internet drop outs / that your bandwidth will magically be enlarged, but it does mean that there can be someone to help the less technically inclined members of the audience (trust me – there’s always one) to find the mute button (or any other button for that matter). It’s also another ‘pair of hands’ to help you select audience volunteers, interact with the audience and ensure things can run as smoothly as possible. This person can also potentially keep the show running if your own internet drops out. On Zoom, for instance, if there’s only one meeting host and their internet drops out then the meeting ends. If you have a co-host, then you’ll always have that other person to keep the meeting running (even if your own internet goes down).

On this note, having a tech run pre-show is not enough and it is no substitute for / not the same thing as having a tech assistant with you during the actual show.  By all means, have a tech run prior to the show – it’s a great way for you to test your lighting / speaker / camera / computer and internet setups – but as we all know, technology can be fickle and not everything is guaranteed to work 100% at the event time, even when a tech run has been successfully completed. Having a tech assistant with you for each show is optimal and I’m sure will be appreciated by your audience members. It also comes across as professional to the audience – as you’re doing everything in your power to encourage and promote the success of the show.

Set aside time to perform on the platform you’ll be using and record yourself so you can check your angles and props before you perform for your audience.
This could be during your tech run or it could be a completely different test run (that you record and watch back later). Angles are of course, very important – especially if you’re taking content that you may do on stage / behind a prop that is no longer there within a virtual show. Many performers have various lights shining at them for virtual performances (ring light, anyone?) but these lights can also make playing card faces unreadable / blank to the camera (and audience) at certain angles. You may need to check the angles of your cards in a test run before you show them to your wider audience. You may not have performed in this setting before, and if that’s the case, practising in front of your online setup is crucial.

In a couple of the shows I’ve previously seen, audience members were asked to remember a card that absolutely no one could read due to the lighting. This can be communicated to the performer at the time, of course, but it can push out the time for this effect / disengage people if it happens too often. During another show, some card vanishes / productions were performed that were out of focus / far away from the camera. Due to that, the illusion and skill seemed less impressive.

Please check / test the running time of your show!
I can speak on behalf of the wider audience when I say we understand that you may not be 100% exactly sure of the run time of your virtual show, especially when audience interactions are involved (which can, at times, take longer than expected). What I can say is that I’ve attended shows that have run over time and shows that have run under time. With the show/s that have run over time, it was never more than 10 minutes and it’s a general assumption that after the allotted show closing time has passed, that audience members are free to leave if they need to do so. Some audience members may think that a show running over time is fine because it’s perceived as better value for money.

Shows that run under time is the real issue here. When shows run under time, it tells the audience that you haven’t tested all your material or perhaps you’ve left something out / forgotten about something. It can also encourage the audience to perceive they may not have received value for money, as the run time of the show is usually very clearly stated in communications prior to the show. Ultimately, not a good look! If you’re unsure of your run time, do some test runs and if unsure – round down (i.e. advertise 50 minutes instead of 60 etc).

Another thing to remember is that clocks are easily accessible on devices. During a face-to-face show, audience members probably won’t check their watches so much, but most computer  / device screens constantly display the time. This means that any deviations in advertised event times (like starting late or finishing early) are likely to be more noticeable for the audience.

Decide how you want the audience to applaud / reward / encourage you and ensure you communicate this with them.
This is a big one to consider as with stage / magic in real life, magician’s applause cues are read in ‘real time’ by the audience, without any video delays / lags and the audience can react swiftly. With online performances, audience reactions may generally be a little slower. This is a 2 step process whereby you select how you want your audience to react and then you communicate this to them.

To help the audience to react the way you want them to, you need to instruct them how to applaud / reward / encourage you:
– this could be via the ‘Reactions’ button in Zoom – which is a clap or thumbs up emoji
– this could be via leaving a comment in the chat box / window
– this could be via encouraging people to make the clapping motion / cheer on screen (while muted)
– this could be via having everyone un-mute themselves for a short while to cheer and clap into their mics (and then you ask everyone to mute themselves again until the end of the show etc)

You then need to communicate this to the audience. This can be done in a welcoming intro / on a welcome screen or image. Once the audience knows what to do and sees others doing the same thing, then people will follow the action or behaviour.

I’m sure each audience member has their own favoured way of reacting. Personally, if the above isn’t communicated (or isn’t communicated properly) then my own default method is the hand clapping emoji (within the ‘Reaction button’ in Zoom). I tend not to type comments into the chat box too much as it takes my attention away from the screen (suffice to say, I’m often looking at the keyboard when I type!)

To VIP or not to VIP?
Similar to VIP ticket offerings in offline shows, some of the online shows I’ve attended have also included this option. Whether you choose to offer this is up to you, however there are important considerations here:
you need to make it clear what the VIP option offers the audience: is it a link to special content? Is it a special recorded message for VIPs? Will VIPs receive a special thank you email post show? Will VIPs have social media shout outs? Will VIP people be selected to be a virtual ‘front row’ for the audience and be able to keep their mics on for the entire show?
the VIP option needs to be perceived as valuable to the audience: if people aren’t interested in extra content or a ‘virtual front row’ or extra thank you notes then they won’t upgrade their ticket.
how is this going to make your other non VIPs in the audience feel? Having a VIP option is fine, but I think you are better placed to not mention VIPs once the show begins (unless you’ve chosen the ‘virtual front row’ option for VIPs – that may require mentioning). At the end of the day, everyone in your audience has paid to be there, and having extra perks paraded in front of non VIPs doesn’t feel nice. Selecting (or not selecting) the VIP option is an active decision by each audience member, and either decision shouldn’t be projected as inferior or not worthy.

Here’s my personal opinion on this:  Given what I have seen so far, I’d be reluctant to purchase a VIP option for an online show. The particular perks listed haven’t been tempting enough for me to part ways with extra money. Given this, please keep in mind that out of all the online magic shows I’ve seen so far, only one offered a VIP option. Also my opinion on this may very well change in the future (at this point I do not know how long we’ll be seeing online offerings before being allowed back into a physical theatre).

Zoom settings checklist / Reminders
Given that zoom seems to be one of the most popular choices for online show platforms, I thought I’d write up a brief checklist of zoom settings that you may like to double check prior to your online event. If you need assistance with any of these, I’d highly recommend checking out the help section of zoom – there are lots of instructions and instructional videos to help you out there. If by chance, you don’t use Zoom as your platform, you can skip the tips below – perhaps the platform you use has different names for these items?

Zoom Settings and reminders checks:
– Zoom usually has a cap on the amount of attendees, so please ensure you don’t oversell your show! Ensure that the ticket program you’re using has a similar cap set to that of your Zoom package / subscription
– ensure in settings that you have co-host enabled. This must be done prior to your webinar / meeting (event). Then when the meeting has been started, you can assign someone as your co-host
– if there are some great comments happening in the chat window, this can be downloaded and stored for later….including ‘private’ messages sent between attendees (something you may also want to keep in mind as an attendee!)
– ensure any reminder emails / auto reminders for the event are switched on
– It’s generally a good idea to go to the settings area in general prior to the event and double check that all your settings are as you wish them to be / matching what you need for the event.

If you’re still with me at this point, thanks for reading! I hope this piece has reminded you of settings to check or prompted some considerations of aspects of online shows. Within the current challenging times, so much of our lives have shifted to virtual formats so it’s a good skill to harness the power of virtual formats to enhance the presentation of your own show.

Extra notes:
*I’ve paid to attend each virtual magic show I’ve seen so far
*I’m not sponsored by Zoom (or any other online platform) – this piece was requested by a friend but it contains some points that I think many can benefit from

Review: “WHAT TO DO? – The Virtual Magic Experience”

One of the more pleasant side effects of being in lockdown is the plethora of online magic shows that seem to appear each week. Recently, I attended “WHAT TO DO? – The Virtual Magic Experience” performed and presented by local Melbourne magician Braydon Barry (of BJT Entertainment). “WHAT TO DO?” indeed is a catch cry of the current times when people can’t visit their usual places for entertainment, and for some, boredom has already set in. Braydon often performs street magic and regularly performs at local markets (back when we could attend markets) so I was keen to see the magical surprises he had in store for his virtual audience. Looking dapper in his suit and with a whimsical home made backdrop, Braydon welcomed everyone to the show with some juggling and some jokes.

This magic show contained many of the kinds of props you’d expect to see in a magic show: with cards, rubber bands and linking rings all making an appearance (along with the juggling balls making several appearances). A personal highlight was a card prediction routine that I was asked to assist in that truly had me wondering “how does he do it?!” Let me assure you that the magic that is witnessed on a screen does not diminish the amazement that it carries and conjures for the audience! Braydon also performed a special silent routine during the show which was clever and poignant in equal measures.

Fun banter carried throughout this family show, keeping the audience interaction fun and the laughs rolling. Braydon handled all audience comments well, and was especially patient and welcoming of comments from the children in the audience. Braydon’s performance of some sharpie (marker) magic for the children in the audience was another personal highlight, and it created much laughter and exclamation from the youngest audience members. Like many shows, there was a bit a of mayhem and chaos amongst the magic however it was all in good fun.

With many activities now taking place online (from office meetings and gym sessions to magical entertainment), online meeting platforms aren’t without their perils and this show was not immune to those, however the disruptions were very minor and did not impede the magic (or the enjoyment of the magic).

VERDICT: A fun show to sit back and enjoy with your family, featuring light hearted and fun content with a few surprises mixed in for good measure. Braydon has so much magic to share that you’ll wonder how an hour can fly past in seemingly no time!

More information: I’m not sure if Braydon has more shows planned, however he is active on socials, so please click the link below for more information.
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/BJTEntertainment/

Review: Lucy Darling @home

The dazzling Lucy Darling (performed by Carisa Hendrix) is ever the travelling magical socialite, however with the changing global conditions comes her new interactive online show “Lucy Darling @home”. Delivering every bit of Lucy’s delicious wit, wonderful magic and sparkling humour directly into your very own home, this show is simply a treat and was the shining highlight of my week. This show contains Lucy’s trademark flair with magic (especially cocktail magic) plus some fun comedy segments that featured audience interaction / participation. I do not want to give too much away – you must simply watch this show for yourselves! The audience interaction segments made me laugh the most and enhanced the audience’s connection with the show. In a time where connections via technology can seem distant or remote at times, I felt that wasn’t the case here. Audience members were encouraged to dress up for the show and they did not disappoint, with some very polished and stylish outfits on display (along with some curious props and accessories).

“Lucy Darling @home” also features Lucy’s household managers (butlers?)  – Laurance and Marcy – who are amusing and entertaining themselves / as a duo without taking too much attention away from Lucy. I particularly enjoyed the dancing and their facial expressions. Laurance and Marcy are constantly helpful but also have some lashings of sass / personality themselves which I enjoyed.

For those who have seen Lucy Darling’s performances before, this show includes some surprises and enhancements that you may not have seen. As with much of Lucy’s performances, each incorporate some bespoke tweaks making each performance unique and that has not wavered with this show. Over time I have been blessed to see a few of Lucy Darling’s shows, and one of her consistent strengths is enthralling storytelling. This strength does not waver an inch during this show, throughout its segments with the storytelling building to an impressive finale. Even with a slightly different performance medium / format, Lucy Darling persistently leaves her audience with great memories – which are undoubtedly all the more cherished during these uncertain times.

VERDICT: highly recommended for a very magical, entertaining and comical interlude to the current uncertain times. Be sure to (virtually) invite Lucy Darling into your home for refreshing hour of fun, magical entertainment.

A special thank you to Lucy Darling (and Carisa Hendrix) for developing and creating this virtual show so that your fans can still see you even though many are not able to leave their homes to see live entertainment.

Show information & waiting list details: https://www.thelucydarling.com/lucy-at-home/

Review: “DOUBLE” by DARKFIELD RADIO

Copy of DARKFIELD RADIO_Windows_Credit Alex Purcell
(image credit: Alex Purcell. Image supplied by Realscape Productions)

In the current conditions (especially within Melbourne) where audiences can’t go out to attend shows, innovative producers and companies are increasingly bringing shows to audiences and consumers (and into their homes). One such example is the immersive audio experience “DOUBLE” , the first broadcast on DARKFIELD RADIO – jointly presented by Realscape Productions and DARKFIELD. If the name DARKFIELD rings a bell, you may be familiar with their ‘shipping container’ style productions that have popped up in various cities: SEANCE, FLIGHT and COMA.

Being a bit of a horror / creepy story buff myself I was excited to be able to review “DOUBLE” (with the help of my partner – after all, it’s an audio experience for 2 people). Think you have nerves of steel? Well, read on for a glimpse of what this audio experience is all about.

“DOUBLE” takes place with each person sitting opposite each other at a kitchen table. We both have our mobiles ready, each with our own set of headphones in. We look at each other and nervously smile while the audio track begins to play…..and then we close our eyes. I can best describe this audio experience as being part radio play (echoing “War of the Worlds” but scaled down with a different theme exploring the Capgras delusion) and partly delving into the audience members’ psyche / beliefs / emotions via a killer audio track. Frequently, the lined are blurred between the audio track sounds and the storyline / characters. Ultimately, this meant that my mind eventually did not know if the sounds I was hearing were from happenings in real world suburbia or if they were part of the audio track. At the very least, this would be perturbing but given the theme and sounds, that was dialled up in my head to being extremely unnerving. During the experience, the sounds rattled me and I wished that I was able to swivel my head around to see if anyone was behind me. I had the urge to do this multiple times and that creepy feeling did not leave me, even after the 20 minute audio experience had ended.

Similar to the effects of a horror movie, this experience left my pulse was racing and my hands sweaty and clammy. Powerful stuff, given that what I was ‘seeing’ was via my imagination deriving / taking inspiration from the audio suggestions and sounds. Though I haven’t seen any previous productions (SEANCE / FLIGHT / COMA) I would wager that the fact this experience happens in your own home – a large source of comfort and respite, especially during these times – makes it all the more panic inducing, especially when lines are seemingly blurred between this world and the world experienced via this audio experience. It made me think that reality is an illusion.

It is possible that different listeners gather a slightly different experience from this dark audio adventure, and how immersive it is is up to you. While I was rattled by an ominous, pervasive belief that my partner and I were no longer alone together in our house (a belief that my mind would not shake for the entire 20 minutes), my partner followed the course through to the end (unshaken and with limited outcomes).

A worthwhile experience for both of us – I would not have expected an audio experience to conjure such strong beliefs and feelings and for my body to react as if I was watching a horror movie on a screen – which is testament to its power. Post experience, it also generated a hearty discussion between my partner and I, which we wouldn’t have had otherwise.

VERDICT: “DOUBLE” is a dark audio experience that is unsettling and intriguing. It will have your pulse racing and will leave you questioning you own reality.

Trigger warnings: domestic violence, exploration of the Capgras delusion, paranoia.

*Disclaimer: we attending this audio experience as guests of Realscape Productions.

UPDATE: DOUBLE by Darkfield Radio is now running until September 30th so there’s still time to experience this dark immersive audio experience for yourself! Get your tickets now. Tickets and more information: https://www.darkfield.com.au/radio

Check out Darkfield Australia on social media: https://www.facebook.com/DarkfieldAU/

Copy of DARKFIELD RADIO _ Antenna - Credit Alex Purcell
(image credit: Alex Purcell. Image supplied by Realscape Productions)

Review: Interactive Impossibilities

With the current global conditions, many sources of entertainment have taken their offerings online, and magic is no different. On a Saturday night (Sunday morning for those in Australia!) I attended my very first International magic show held on Zoom. This show, called ‘Interactive Impossibilities’, featured three entertainers: illusionist Leon Etienne, magician Jimmy Ichihana and mentalist Bryan Miles. Each entertainer was beaming in from different areas of the world which added extra excitement – Leon was in NY, Jimmy in FL, and Bryan beamed in all the way from South Africa! Most of the performers had appearances on TV shows like “AGT” and “Penn & Teller: Fool Us” so I was confident that the audience was in store for an entertaining show.

The magic started as soon as the audience was let into the zoom ‘room’ with a cool countdown effect featuring playing cards. This created some excitement for the show to start. Leon Etienne (with hair that seemed to defy gravity!) opened the show with clever magic featuring items from around the house (tape and paper). I don’t wish to spoil too much of the specifics of each performance, however broadly – Jimmy Ichihana showed some incredible card magic (some of which the audience could follow along with in real time which was fantastic); and Bryan Miles is definitely a master of mind manipulation / mind control – a master mentalist. If you ever thought that mind reading couldn’t be done en masse via zoom then think again! Bryan’s segment was by far the most interactive with audience members, which also made it the most memorable. I felt that Bryan was playing some fun games with the audience at times – at one point, a ‘Pictionary’ type game appeared which I thoroughly enjoyed.

Throughout the show, there were numerous chances for members of the audience to help out and I enjoyed this aspect – I not only felt like I was meeting other magic fans from all around the world but we all had the chance to share in the magic together via zoom reactions / facial reactions and the chat window. The performers all regularly visited the chat window to see reactions and responses from audience members which was nice. Additionally I had the most wonderful chance to help out as a member from the audience, made more incredible by Jimmy Ichihana’s mind blowing card magic. Jimmy’s card effect made me say ‘NO WAY!’ in front of an international audience – it was that hard to believe! Quite a feat in itself that impactful card magic can be done via a screen half a world away – you really do need to see it to believe it!

Overall, ‘Interactive Impossibilities’ was well presented and organised. The usual issues that often plague zoom meetings (like sound issues / bandwidth dropouts / time lags etc) were not present during this show. The entire show appeared to be live (vs shows that combine live and pre-recorded content). There are benefits to each online format (fully live versus a combo of live and pre-recorded) however I felt that being fully live enhanced the ‘exclusive’ nature of the show – and I like that. Attendance was capped to 30 people and this enhanced the exclusive aspect of ‘Interactive Impossibilities’. It was closer to the original experience of watching a show in real time, as opposed to watching pre recorded content (which feels no different to watching a video / streaming service online). Post show, my desk looked like I had been to a magic show – there were cards scattered across my desk and predictions made. Amazing that an experience that closely resembles a magic show in real life can be replicated online.

I’m not sure if this online magic experience will be repeated, but I highly recommend that you keep a look out for ‘Interactive Impossibilities’ and attend if you have the chance. It’s a fun hour of magic that will leave you impressed and intrigued.

The Melbourne Magic Festival 2020 Online Gala Show

Like many other forms of live entertainment planned for 2020, The Melbourne Magic Festival has had to be postponed until 2021. Not at all surprising in these times – I’m extremely lucky to have a stack of happy memories to reflect on from past years – however this time of year doesn’t feel the same without the festival’s charm and enjoyment. It feels like a bleak winter this year.

Not all is lost (especially for fans of magic) as the team behind the Melbourne Magic Festival, led by local magic superstar Tim Ellis, held an online version of their annual Gala Show. The performers donated their time and talents and the online gala raised money for the festival itself (for, even with an event postponement the bills and costs keep rolling in). Hosted by Tim Ellis himself and held on Zoom, ticket holders were asked to dress magically and keep their webcams on to enhance the level of enjoyment and keep magical enthusiasm going. It was great to see a mix of age groups tuning in, from people on their couches / sofas, to young adults with headphones on, to families with children all smiling and waving. There was a lovely spot of LIVE piano music pre show, performed by Andy Pobjoy at Piano Bar Geelong. It was a fun way to start the show, and many audience members could be seen bopping along, clapping or moving their hands in the air to the music. A sweet medley of tunes played on piano (accompanied by singing) had broad appeal for the audience (including some hits from Queen and also some Frank Sinatra favourites). This was a treat as not many have had a chance to travel beyond their own suburb (let alone across then city and then some!). It felt like a mini magical getaway.

The online show itself was a first for me – I mean, sure during the work day I have meetings over Zoom but I’ve never tuned in for entertainment. I was curious to see how the show was going to play out, with mixed segments of live and pre-recorded magic as well as the potential challenges asking for audience volunteers could bring during the show.

I have to admit that the online show was just about as enjoyable as a show in real life! I saw some of my friends in the audience and we exchange greetings in the chat area, which brought much joy to my socially starved soul. The magic (whether live or pre-recorded) still made me laugh, gasp and cheer as usual. Much of it was just as amazing as it would be live (especially the piece by Lawrence Leung which was brilliant!) Many local favourite magicians were in the lineup (including Dom Chambers, Anthony DeMasi and many many others). There were special appearances with greetings from overseas magicians (such as Max Maven, Boris Wild and Shawn Farquhar) – many of whom were past / planned International guests at The Melbourne Magic Festival – which was a nice touch. It made it seem like those International guests missed the festival too, but was also fantastic to see them introduce other performers. The gala included a performance by the divine Lucy Darling which was an indulgent treat as usual. There were far too many show highlights to mention here, however I very much enjoyed seeing some of my favourite performers (whether local or international) – even if the segments were pre-recorded I still smiled and waved as if they could see me in real time.

Another aspect I appreciated about the show was the short and sharp nature of the magic segments, with the performers getting right to the magic. It reminded me of a variety show, where the performers only have a few minutes to impress. I liked that as, going into the show, I was concerned that it would be a long stint online. These days, having a lot more screen time than I usually would means that I do get ‘screen tired’. It was definitely a different medium with which to show magic, however the magic was just as impactful. I enjoyed dressing up in a nice magic themed outfit for the show (as these days, I’m in casual clothes all the time). I miss getting dressed up to go out so that was a nice change of pace for the evening.

Like many other users of Zoom and other online platforms (whether social or business), online mediums aren’t without their perils…..Low user bandwidth can be a devil, especially during a live segment that required audience participation. There was a lot of speech / vision lag during that segment, so I don’t feel like I caught much of that performance. There were also a couple of points where the same pre-recorded segment was played again (and then halted)- however that prompted some comedy from the show host Tim Ellis, which was amusing. I also had a technology lag (my issue) with the platform closing, and I then couldn’t get back into the show as the participant number had reached its max. Frustrating, but I eventually got back into the show and stayed in (thankfully!) Those that regularly use Zoom or other platforms are well versed in the pitfalls of such systems, and no user is really immune to those. None impacted on the enjoyment factor or enthusiasm of the audience members during the show.

The Melbourne Magic Festival Online Magic Gala was a fun show, and a nice virtual outing to a festival I’m missing very much this year. It was nice getting dressed up and virtually chatting to friends I’d normally see during the festival as well as watching some of my favourite magical performers. I can only hope that there will be more virtual magic shows to partake in, especially during these socially distant times when we’re all unsure when live performances will return to Melbourne. Thank you to everyone at The Melbourne Magic Festival for organising this special online event.

For more information / news of future performances:

The Melbourne Magic Festival: https://melbournemagicfestival.com/

Piano Bar Geelong: https://www.pianobar.com.au/geelong

 

Gosh, how the world has changed!

In late February / Early March this year, I spent a weekend soaking in the sights, sounds and awesome shows of the Adelaide Fringe Festival….little did I know that the world at large was set to change a mere 2 weeks later.

I have been ultra quiet on here as (like many others) I’ve had to juggle a slew of different variables – working from home and the challenges that brings, being away from friends and relatives, and having many plans in flux. There is also the sad fact that many forms of live entertainment have been put on hold during this time (yes, I’m still being entertained via Netflix and Disney+ but that’s vastly different to physically attending a live entertainment show). Understandable in these times, however unfortunate for everyone involved all the same. The global conditions have meant that the arts sector needs assistance more than ever (from the government, from patrons / sponsors and from audience members).

The changing face of the world has seen a rise in online ‘virtual’ magic shows, which come with their own challenges. I was recently lucky enough to attend a virtual magic gala (run by the team at the Melbourne Magic Festival) so stay tuned for a review of an online magic show (certainly a first for me!) which was a fun way to stay connected to an art form that I enjoy so much.

In these times, more than ever, it is important to stay connected (yet distancing as appropriate) and to stay well.