Melbourne Fringe Review: “Make Your Move”

Returning to the lovely Gasworks theatre for another serving of fringe festival entertainment, I was excited to attend the show called “Make Your Move”. I had read a little about the show, however much of the details are left to be deliberately mysterious. I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, but throughout the course of the evening I was pleasantly surprised. With many shows becoming overly descriptive in titles and marketing blurbs, it was a little liberating to attend feeling like a ‘clean slate’ – having no preconceived expectations about the show. “Make Your Move” is a well organised show and the intimate but keen audience on opening night were warmly welcomed by the cast.

“Make Your Move” is directed by Gemma Flannery (13Theatre founder) and features a core team of 4 engaging performers – Luke Livermore, Hayley Marlow, Robyn Mclachlan and Tara Kennedy. Throughout the show, the audience is slowly given access to and perspectives of each character’s personality and world. It seems, at times, as if the audience members have visited a small town inhabited solely by these characters.  Dispersed between vignettes of each character, there is also a broader storyline featuring two lovers – a story which progresses, evolves and twists through the course of the show (and via the reactions / opinions of audience members).

The 4 performers within “Make Your Move” each did a fantastic job of bringing their characters to life – there were amusing conversations for the audience to witness, giggles and wry smiles and some impressive monologues. There were a couple of cliche lines, however there were also modern references which I enjoyed so a sense of balance was towed. Most importantly, the characters were highly relatable – I could see elements of myself in some of the characters or even elements of their backgrounds and could think of other people in my life who could relate to the characters as well. Collectively, I believe at least one of the characters would be relatable to most audience members (in one way or another). This also helps draw the audience into the stories within the show – as the show progresses, I get a sense that the audience ‘cares’ about the welfare of each character a little more. Overall, I found the characters’ perspectives to be like a foggy bathroom mirror – at the start of the show, the audience isn’t given much detail and then progressively through the show we learn more about the characters until a clear image of  each appears.

A regular segment of the show that I enjoyed was the “Game Show” segment, which to me was a commentary on how life throws us all into uncertain and stressful situations sometimes. I enjoyed the metaphors that the game show references brought, as well as some bonus laughs. I also enjoyed the ‘prop heavy’ nature of the show, and indeed how each performer / character regarded the props in the space after they had been used. It felt like every aspect of this show had been carefully selected and regarded. There were some storyline aspects that were serious and could be taken to darker places, however a balance remained (in content and jokes / light hearted moments).

The title “Make your Move” was regularly referenced throughout the show, which I liked as it constantly brought the audience back to the concept of “what’s next?” or “what do you want to do next?” or “where are you headed?” Life often throws each of us into the paths of crossroads – just like in this show, where characters approach their own crossroads with different perspectives.

Verdict: it’s time for YOU to take that next step and “Make Your Move” to the Gasworks to see this enjoyable, clever and thought provoking show. Take a chance, roll the dice of fate and see a show worthy of your time, attention and thought.

Tickets: http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/make-your-move/

*Disclaimer: I attended this show as a guest of the Director.

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Melbourne Fringe Review: Le Grande Cabaret

Tucked away in an inner city suburb, Hares and Hyenas is a both a bookshop and a performance space. The venue is playing host to a handful of fringe festival shows this season, including the one I was lucky to attend: Le Grande Cabaret. I will admit that I have previously seen an incarnation of Le Grande Cabaret, however this one was a markedly different show – with a particular theme and different assortment of performers.

Patrick Collins was the suitably charming MC for the evening and announced that the theme of the show was “Heaven and Hell” – with the first part of the show dedicated to performers with heavenly personas and routines, and the second part of the show would descend into the more devilish routines! Patrick addressed his audience as a ‘pantomime crowd’ prompting lots of of ‘oohs and aaahs’ and of course, making the audience laugh.

The lineup for the ‘heavenly’ portion of the evening commenced with none other than the delightfully sweet and divine Camilla Cream. Appearing in a beautifully fluffy and soft pastel pink outfit (with matching feather fans and headdress), it seemed that Camilla floated in on a cloud of fairy floss. Her routine set to a jazzy rendition of the modern song ‘Call Me Maybe”, Camilla was playful towards the audience with every step. Winking and being sultry one minute, then smiling coyly the next – every performance from Camilla is a sweet treat! I’m constantly impressed and mystified with how Camilla seemingly effortlessly moves and weaves her fans in time with the music. The way she uses them, they looks like they weigh nothing at all. One thing is for sure – Camilla’s performance was sensational!

Lord Lovat appeared next, with his ‘Twerking in the rain’ routine (admittedly, one of my personal favourites). If you’ve never seen Lord Lovat perform or seldom seen this routine then you are simply missing out on an amazing performance that is sassy, sexy and will leave you screaming for more! It’s a routine that never fails to leave the room steamy. Continuing on with the heavenly performers, I felt blessed as another ‘fan favourite’ – Liberty Foxx – appeared with a striking comedy based routine that was cleverly themed and which involved a complete transformation. I won’t spoil exactly what happened here, but let’s say the audience went bananas for Liberty.

Miss Holly Wouldn’t slipped through the crowd and onto the stage like a goddess from films past, performing a breathtaking and enchanting ‘classic tease’ routine and using a draping outfit with great effect. Continually glancing back to her audience, Miss Holly Wouldn’t ensured the audience constantly wanted more, and more we did! Ever so beautiful throughout her routine, I spied many longing glances from audience members after she had left the stage. Rounding out the heavenly section of the show was performer Michael Wheatley, who brought a gangster style vibe and very athletic body to the stage. I enjoyed his performance as he told the story of a man trying to impress a very beautiful woman (Camilla Cream) without using a word. The audience couldn’t but be charmed by Michael – he is such an endearing character.

In no time, Patrick Collins returned to introduce us to the hellish characters within the second part of the show, and in the process seemingly became overcome by the prince of darkness himself and performed some card magic!! Hellish to some, but I reveled in the magic routine (steered behind the scenes by the prince of darkness) and was entertained by every moment! It certainly displayed a stark contrast to the first section of the show. While the audience were on their journey to the hellish depths of the underworld, we discovered that many of the performers were the same people as we’d seen earlier in the show – however they’d taken on darker personas….Lord Lovat had now become a zombie, convulsing the wards of some faraway hospital while Liberty Foxx used a very slow, almost heavy metal reworking of the song ‘Bad Moon Rising’ to depict an almost occult little red riding hood. With her slow, calculating and almost tortured movements, Liberty Foxx’s performance gave me chills down my spine. Headlining the evening, Michael Wheatley returned – seemingly possessed by the soul of a singer from the 1970’s. Impressed by his vocal ability, the audience was treated when Michael came down into the audience and showed off his suave dance moves up close to some lucky audience members. All velvet and smooth moves, Michael’s routine was sultry at times as he gyrated his hips and surveyed his newest fans – the room was in awe and excited at the same time. It was the perfect crescendo to a fun evening out.

Aside from the amazing performers who clearly took the show theming to heart, what I enjoyed about this show is that it was fast paced with thrills and exciting moments around every corner. With a lineup that changes each night, you’ll never know who you’ll encounter in heaven (or hell).

VERDICT: Don’t be afraid to venture to the edges of heaven and hell with ‘Le Grande Cabaret’. Let the performers take you to realms of angelic and demonic delights for an entertaining night of burlesque and surprises.

Tickets and more information: https://melbournefringe.com.au/event/le-grande-cabaret/

*Disclaimer: I attended this even as a guest of Le Grande Cabaret

Melbourne Fringe Review – Creatrix Tiara: Queer Lady Magician

 On a slightly chilly evening, audience members gathered excitedly within a studio theatre at the Gasworks to witness Creatrix Tiara’s debut magic show during the Melbourne fringe festival, titled “Queer Lady Magician”. The title of the show describes Tiara to a tee, however this is a magic show that delves beyond titles and labels – it is a show with a strong social commentary and narrative behind it.

I enjoyed that this show has an MC (Sonia) who was dressed in an outfit echoing a circus ringmaster. Sonia appeared on stage a few times throughout the show, to make introductions and to almost ‘keep the show on track’ in some parts. Sassy and witty, the audience took a shine to Sonia each time she appeared on stage. I find that many magic shows do not feature an MC, however this seemed to be an indication that around every corner, this was not a ‘standard’ magic show.

Creatrix Tiara made an exciting entrance onstage, and the crowd responded with a roar of applause and cheers. Dressed in a beautiful sparkly outfit complete with a tailcoat adorned with more shiny and sparkly elements, Creatrix knew she’s the performer everyone was there to see but didn’t let that sway her from diving right into her stories adorned with plenty of magical surprises.

Creatrix Tiara’s show explored many stories – personal stories from Tiara’s childhood and family, right through to poignant stories regarding heartbreak, and various challenges (racism, stereotyping, feelings of not belonging). Many stories were highly relatable  – even if one isn’t a queer lady magician, similar narratives course through our collective lives at one point or another. Creatrix Tiara’s stories evoked many emotions throughout the show – at times the audience sat in tense silence, while at other times there was laughter and nods of solidarity / agreement by audience members. There were some moments where I wished I could have reached out and provided a hug.
In terms of the magical elements, I could see that Tiara had carefully selected magical effects to accompany the stories and I have to say that everything was perfectly matched. Much of the magic selected was ‘classic’ magic, but with Creatrix Tiara’s own exciting spin and twists on it. A highlight is the cups and balls routine, which had the audience gasping in surprise.

The star of this show is undoubtedly Creatrix Tiara, however the show features a small cast of other characters – namely Chadbury and Caliope – who each have their important parts to play and greatly enhanced the storyline as well as helping to elicit reactions from the audience. They were each convincing and played their roles with perfection.

This show was not afraid to address some stereotypes of magicians / magic – namely can magicians be honest or trustworthy when they deceive and manipulate for a living? Are manipulations inherently bad (or can they be good)? Stereotypes of male magicians being ‘creepy’ and treating females as assistants / props (rather than females also being magicians in their own right) were also explored, which I found refreshing. Despite the serious subject matter in places, this is a very enjoyable show and I encourage all to go along and see it – it’s a jewel of the Melbourne Fringe festival program.

VERDICT: This is so much more than just a magic show. It’s a magic show with heart, soul and some thrilling surprises along the way. I encourage you to leave all your misconceptions about magic outside the door and step into Creatrix Tiara’s world of wonder. Potent poignant prestidigitation!

Tickets and further information: Creatrix Tiara: Queer Lady Magician runs from September 13th-15th at the Gasworks.
http://www.gasworks.org.au/event/creatrix-tiara/

*Disclaimer: I attended the show as a guest of the performer.

 

The 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival has arrived!

The month of September features a cluttered social calendar for the citizens of Melbourne. Between football finals and the starting of the spring racing carnival season, sits the Melbourne Fringe Festival. Melbourne Fringe has always been one of my favourite festivals – typically full of radical performances by performers who ‘think outside the box’ and aren’t afraid to challenge society’s ways or group thought processes. I’m pleased to say that I’ll be seeing and reviewing a few shows as part of the 2018 Melbourne Fringe Festival, so please stay tuned (and please support the arts!)

Review: Sugar Republic

  On a pleasant and mild Winter afternoon, a gaggle of ladies and I assembled in Collingwood for our much anticipated visit to ‘desserts museum’ Sugar Republic. We were all dressed casually (especially important given our impending time in a ball pit!) however alongside my fluro pink sprinkles dress I also wore my fairy floss inspired pastel pink and blue fluffy jacket.

 Warmly welcomed by staff at the front door, we were given a sticker sheet, and the we travelled past the inflatable banana forest into a pastel coloured, sweet sugar wonderland. There were treats for all the senses around every corner, and to our delight each room of this desserts / candy paradise was highly instagrammable!

 Each ‘room’ or segment of this sugar wonderland was extremely well thought out and curated. From homages to gummy bears, rainbows and birthday cake, each area made me smile and my heart race with excitement (or a sugar rush!) Staff on hand were also extremely kind and helpful – from assistance with group photos, to ensure all us adults had our own time in the ball pit to a staff member helping half our group to get some fairy floss when there were long lines and we got split up. I had envisaged that we’d be overrun with kids and would have to fight to have some time with the installations, however I was wrong – the number of staff on hand to help was perfect and very appreciated.

 There were a nice mix of activities in the rooms too, so that it wasn’t all a ‘look but don’t touch’ experience – personal highlights for me were the spinning wheel, giant gumball machine, giant birthday cake and ball pit (of course!). I felt that we were given an appropriate amount of time in the ball pit and we were all feeling a bit tired when we left, which was a good sign.

 The ticket itself was reasonably priced: for $38 we had an hour and a half to explore all the sweet rooms – a perfect amount of time – and it included an assortment of sweets along the way (including, but not limited to ice cream, fairy floss and wizz fizz sherbet). I wish I could have stayed there forever (cue heart eyes emoji). The experience and laughs / smiles with my friends have left me with many great memories and moments.

  VERDICT: a sweet pastel paradise for those with a sweet tooth who also enjoy nostalgia. This is one pop up that will sweeten your day!

Information: This installation is in it’s final days and has sadly sold out! It may be touring so be sure to visit the website to find out where it will be next! For more info, visit:  http://www.sugarrepublic.com.au/

My Magical Memories across 12 years and 500 magic shows (and counting!)

2018 is a special year in my timeline of being a magic fan – it marks my 12 years of being a fan of magic, but at the conclusion of the 2018 Melbourne Magic Festival it also marks my 500th magic show seen. Sounds crazy, but it turns out all those magic shows add up over the years! Yes, it’s a milestone that only I would keep a count of but it also has me thinking of some of the interesting and thoughtful questions people have asked me over the years in relation to magic, so I thought I’d share some of them here. I haven’t done personal writing like this before so I don’t know if this will end up being an interesting piece for you all to read, however if you’re curious please do read on!

Where did it all begin?
Quite some time ago (12 years in fact!) I was looking for new experiences and adventures in life, and a dear friend at the time regularly went to magic shows and invited me to one. It was called “Magic Mondays” held on the first Monday of the month at Dante’s restaurant in an inner city suburb. Run by a core team of four awesome magicians plus featuring a good rotation of guest magicians every month, I fondly remember my times in the audience there. Prior to attending the show, I did ask my friend “do you mean a kids’ magic show or?!” – at that time I had no idea that regular magic shows for adults existed. Believe it or not, during the first 6 months or so of show attendance I was terrified to help out on stage – a glaring difference to the way I am now! I was very lucky (and grateful) to have some super sweet stage experiences at this show. During its peak, “Magic Mondays” was well known for its theme nights for Halloween, Christmas and its annual Birthday show. I often organised a group of 10 friends to attend along with me – as my dear friend always said “magic is much better enjoyed with friends”. Along the way, other monthly magic nights appeared in other areas of town – like “Mitcham Magic” towards the Eastern suburbs and other small irregular shows in basement bars and other places across the city.

Many people assume I enjoyed magic as a child, however that’s not exactly true. I can recall watching / attending maybe 3 magic shows when I was a child. I was shy as a child and would have been terrified had a magician asked me to help out onstage so magic wasn’t memorable for me when I was younger….totally making up for that now, of course!

Why magic? What’s the appeal?
It’s a little hard to explain, but basically – magic changes the way I think about things, about everything – about everyday objects, about psychology and people, about the universe. I take delight in being surprised, and magic is so different to everything else that goes on in my world. Magic is also an escape to my ‘usual’ life, because nothing ‘usual’ ever goes on during a magic show! I generally like art, but magic would be my favourite kind of art form by a mile.

Do you remember all the magic / every single show you’ve seen?
Well….to put it bluntly, No. Sorry to disappoint! I can’t remember every single magical effect or show I’ve seen however I do generally have a good memory for events so I basically have a ‘favourites showreel’ of my favourite times at magic shows / unforgettable magic effects that I can refer to. A good chunk of those memories are from stage shows, but there are some select pieces of close up and card magic included too. Over the years I have been gifted with some very beautiful, ‘limited edition’ souvenirs. As much as the souvenirs make me feel like the luckiest girl in the room, they also serve as a great memory aid / prompt.  There are some pieces of magic that have been so impactful that they’re unforgettable. Along with certain pieces of magic, it is the dialogue or the magician’s personality that often sticks in my mind. A friendly, engaging personality makes magic that much more enjoyable and distinct. If the magic performance I see has a defined storyline or strong storytelling elements then I’m also more likely to remember it.

Don’t you see a lot of the “same” sorts of magic tricks on repeat?
I do, but I also find that magicians work hard at making the magic they present to be distinctive, with their own stories and personalities added into the mix. So yes, much of the ‘core’ magic I see are effects I’ve seen time and time again but I don’t mind. Regularly, magicians come up with such different and fascinating portrayals and presentations that eventually it doesn’t matter if I see repeated content.

What’s your favourite magic trick / type of magic?
I don’t have a defined favourite, and it’s hard to choose just one effect or type of magic. I can tell you the kinds of magic that just transfix me or take me away to another place, though. I’ve always had a bizarre love for rope magic. Even if it seems confusing at times, I really enjoy rope magic routines and the stories that go with them. I enjoy prediction routines where audience members get to go on stage and draw pictures. There’s always one picture that is way funnier than the others! I enjoy magic with ‘cute’ aspects, like balloon animals or rabbits or cute characters. I like watching children’s / family magic shows as there’s always a lot of colour and movement on stage (as well as plenty of puns!) More recently, I’ve discovered character magic – where the magician transforms themselves into a completely different character who then presents the show and completes the magic. I find the storytelling component to be much richer in those kinds of shows, and I find them to be the most memorable shows. The audience generally remembers magicians, but they’ll remember an immersive magical character that much more.

Why don’t you do magic yourself? Have you ever tried?
At the risk of causing myself some issues later on, I’m going to be brave and admit that I have dabbled in magic. Many friends have been very generous to me over the years (which I am very grateful for), and as such I do have books on magic, magic sets, kits and small props etc. What I don’t have is the confidence and the time / drive to practice magic regularly. This may come as a shock to some people, but outside of my ‘9-5’ job I also have an assortment of other hobbies (like miscellaneous papercrafts and reviewing shows on this blog among other activities) that require my care and attention. Naturally, more of my time will be devoted to the hobbies that I have more confidence in.

Have you ever seen a “bad” show?
If any magicians are actually reading this I can feel their eyes burning into the page…..but no need to fear. I can’t say that I have technically seen a “bad” show (magicians, you can all breathe easy for now!) I’ve never walked out of a show, but I have sat through 2 shows over the past 6 years or so that had extensive technological difficulties (with powerpoint presentations / screens / sound desks and the like) which negatively impacted the shows. During one of those shows, the performer also called members of the audience ‘lazy’ – if we chose not to seek how the magic effects were done – which I take issue with. Magicians (and performers in general), trust me when I say that if it is the middle of Winter and your audience have parted ways with their time, money and heated blankets / pajamas / multiple heat sources to attend your show they are anything but lazy!!!

Fairly early on in the days of attending magic shows I also had some pressing personal issues that were at one point becoming difficult to manage. At one magic show I was called out during a time where I was very stressed. Was it a great experience, being called out in the middle of someone’s show? No – it was one of those moments where I wished the floor would open into a void and swallow me whole. Should I have been at that show at that time? Probably not if my stress wasn’t in check, but everything in hindsight. During other shows I (and the rest of the audience) have had to put up with extensive jokes and dialogue from the 1950’s – I’m sure you can tell where I’m going here. It gets tiring, and it’s unnecessary in the modern world. From this perspective I have seen magicians with ‘less than ideal’ personalities but I figure – that’s just life. Out in the rest of the world, there are some people out there with crap personalities too so it’s not something restricted to the industry. At the end of the day, I just try and pay more attention to the performers with personalities, qualities and shows that I enjoy.

Do you have any pieces of advice or suggestions for magicians generally / from the audience / from your times as an audience member?
You’ll have to forgive me if these suggestions / pieces of information seem obvious to you – these are just items that I’ve collated after seeing many different magicians over 12 years. These points are just ‘food for thought’ however if you find any of them useful, then that is great!

I like to think most magicians treat their audiences with respect / the way they themselves would like to be treated and I generally find that this is the case. If anyone is unsure, I’ll repeat it here now – treat your audience members well! Be complimentary and make sure they know you appreciate them being at your show.  Most people subscribe to the culture of “busy” so there are many things audience members could be doing instead of watching your show. Ensure their time / monetary investment in you is worthwhile. Make sure that any helpers from the audience are treated extra well / treated with extra attention / thanks / souvenirs etc.  Helping on stage is still a legitimate barrier for people to attend magic shows, and many people I know still find it stressful or scary. Make sure everyone who helps you is treated extra well because little is more terrifying for an audience member than watching a magician not treat an audience helper well and then for that magician to search for their next victim helper. Which leads me to my next point – become a good ‘people reader’. This doesn’t necessarily mean increasing your mentalism skills / trying to read people’s minds but it does mean working on your skills to read others’ body language and small non verbal cues. Becoming better at reading people will mean that you’ll be better equipped to understand when helpers from the audience are nervous, or be able to ‘read’ when someone doesn’t want to help out or go on stage (so you can then select another helper). I find that the magicians who are good ‘people readers’ have a certain flow to their shows, and there’s less tension / uncomfortable moments. Audience members in general feel more at ease with performers who can ‘read’ them well because it makes a person seem more trustworthy if they understand how you’re feeling. Ultimately it increases empathy and that always feels nice if you’re the one feeling nervous or unsettled etc.

Personality is everything! Personality gives pizzazz to pieces of magic that can be dry or a little outdated. I’ve seen magicians with a ‘regular’ set routine, but due to their amazing personality I could watch that set routine a crazy amount of times and still be entertained. Personality sells too – it’s one of the reasons the audience comes to see your magic show as opposed to one from someone else (especially during a festival where there are many other shows on offer).

Be open to feedback. It literally took me years to pluck up the courage to actually feed back information and suggestions to magicians – obviously in the context of constructive feedback of course. Many times, magicians would know they could approach me after a show or on social media to ‘check’ on show aspects – like show flow, stage items and venue aspects etc. Egos aside, you’ll never know how much you can improve / tweak your show if you’re not open to feedback and suggestions (obviously from ‘trusted’ sources). From another perspective, being closed to wider feedback may mean that you’re missing aspects that should be addressed (like poor audience angles or items onstage that obstruct views etc). More recently, I’ve noticed that when I have provided valuable and appreciated feedback to magicians I’ve noticed that they’ve made prompt adjustments to their act / setup which I find impressive. Continuous improvement is a wonderful thing.

Commence your show with something strong or some engaging dialogue. This is less relevant for myself / regular consumers of magic, but more relevant for the audience members who are new to magic. I believe that you genuinely have 5-10 minutes to wow an audience at the start of a show to ‘win’ them over. In the best show I’ve seen, this is seamless – the magician begins with the element of surprise and then has some attention grabbing dialogue. In the less enjoyable shows, the magician spends time alienating people with a rambling dialogue / an unclear character or opens with some complicated magic which is mentally taxing for the audience.

There’s always going to be a small percentage of audience members who don’t really want to be at a show – they’ve been dragged along by a significant other or have been dragooned into supporting a ‘friend of a friend’. Or perhaps they’re just the doubters of magic – the ‘you can’t surprise me / I can explain everything’ types. It would be misguided to cater to these types for your entire show, however, there’s something to be gained if you can engage with them and surprise them early on.

Where do you think magic is headed in the future (ie from a trends perspective)?
Watching so much magic affords me the luxury of watching trends happen. Often I’ll see a particular type of magic or sort of effect done repeatedly by many magicians for about 6 months and then all of a sudden by the end of a year it will be gone / switched out for the next trend or I’ll see it less regularly. I’m unaware of what forces are at work here – whether the trend originates from trade shows / overseas recommendations / the internet or something else entirely. From one perspective it is good, because it shows that magicians are generally evolving their own shows and ‘keeping things fresh’ however on the other hand it can be frustrating too – if it’s a trend you don’t like, mentally you know you’ll be stuck watching it for at least another 6 months and that becomes tiring.

I think technology has a welcome place in magic shows. Magic with phones and iPads is seen as cool by younger audience members and technology keeps things ‘relevant’ (in a way!) With phones holding so much personal information, any magic done with a person’s mobile / cell phone becomes that much more impactful. To an extent, I think that audiences have limited capacities during a show to process and absorb all magical stimuli. Everyone is bombarded with an overload of information everyday in modern life, so sometimes I think that doing more with less during a show is beneficial. Or perhaps being mindful to provide the audience with some mental ‘breathing time’ so they can properly ‘switch’ into “magic watching mode”?

Where / what direction would you like to see magic headed?
I already LOVE magic, that much is clear. What I’d like to see is more people / potential audience members in the wider community giving magic a chance (or even ‘another chance’). I think of the stigmas that magic still (unfortunately) holds in the minds of the greater public: that all magic shows are for children / that magicians are ”creepy” / the fear of public humiliation (via audience participation). Despite not practicing magic myself, these are stigmas I want the industry to be rid of! I don’t exactly know how to ‘turn the tide’ on these aspects. All I can do is support the magicians who are displaying the optimal attributes, qualities and skills and encourage my friends to attend a show with me. Whilst I always hope to support magicians / magic in general (in one way or another!) I’m enjoying watching the continued rise of female magicians. It’s fantastic to see female members joining magic clubs, and to hear about the amazing achievements of female magicians on an international level. I hope to always be able to see and support women in magic and hope women continue to rise in magic too.

I’d like to see an expansion of magic presented differently – less of the dry, stuffy classics and more of the modern interpretations. More magic with rich storylines, enchanting characters and curious themes / aesthetics. The more the public are exposed to different kinds of magic shows (ie storytelling magic with characters, magic with certain themes or aesthetics) the better as magic won’t be seen as a ‘static’ / stuffy art form of a bygone era, and will hopefully be seen as a modern art form that is continually evolving.

Hope you have enjoyed reading this piece of personal writing. If you have any comments or questions to ask (which may be included in a future piece if I receive enough submissions) please feel free to email me: tayaroundtown@gmail.com

MMF 2018: Tay’s Top 8 Shows

The 2018 Melbourne Magic Festival has now vanished for another year – the wands have been packed away, along with the magic suitcases and top hats. I’m always sad to see the festival go because for me, each Melbourne Magic Festival is like an ‘all you can eat” buffet of magic for two solid weeks. Each festival brings the chance to see magic I’ve never seen before, to make new friends and to share magical moments with my friends (that we often reference / reminisce about long after the shows have run).

One of my own ‘post festival’ traditions is that after all the reviews have been written, I compile a ‘top list of shows’. These are the shows that have presented (in my opinion) the most amazing, unforgettable or incredible pieces of magic. The shows that have impressed me and that have really gone that ‘extra mile’ – either in presentation or magical effects or by blowing away my expectations. Each year I’ve compiled this list, the amount of shows on the list have changed- sometimes it’s 5 shows, sometimes it’s 10. This year it is 8 shows! Please enjoy this year’s list below, and congratulations to all those who made the list.

“That Tingling Sensation” performed by Lucy Darling (Carisa Hendrix): By far the most enchanting magical character I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting. She sets the bar so high in her magical abilities but I also love her dialogue and how sweetly she treats her fans. There are many reasons why I specifically go and see her show twice each year, but one of the reasons is the semi improvised nature of her shows. If you haven’t had the pleasure of experiencing a Lucy Darling show then you simply must.

“Personal” performed by Vincent Kuo: Rarely has a magic show had such an effect on me that this one has. Moving stories and beautiful, sublime magic. The only magic show that has made me have a good cry afterwards. Amazing how magic can generate such raw emotions.

“Woody Aragon is a Bald Faced Liar” performed by Woody Aragon: World class card magic presented in a fun, engaging way. I know a show is great if I’m leaning in and am on the edge of my seat to watch the miracles unfold in front of my eyes. A show that engaged all my senses and I loved it.

“DeeDee Darling’s Bubble Magic Show” performed by DeeDee Darling (Carisa Hendrix): The sweetest children’s performer with a thoroughly delightful and surprising show. She’s impressive and  irresistible. This show was loads of fun and featured plenty of bubbles, magic, dancing and laughs. DeeDee is THE BEST!

“The Art of Magic & Illusion” performed by The Showmen  (Justin Williams and Sam Hume): The show that blew away all my expectations! The Showmen took classics of magic and reimagined them in the most amazing, dangerous and thrilling ways. They certainly know how to harness adrenaline and get their audience’s pulse racing. This show made me excited for magic and reminded me how excited magic shows made me when I first saw magic. The Showmen are definitely ones to watch / keep your eyes on!

“Schrodinger’s Wizard” performed by Mr Marmalade: undoubtedly the most whimsical magic show in this year’s festival but also a show that held many surprises. It was well thought out and put together from a debut festival performer. I have no doubt that Mr Marmalade left everyone feeling enchanted and wanting to see more.

“Ghetto Shaman” performed by Adam Axford: I have to admit that I have a ‘soft spot’ for the brave performers who present a magic show that’s a little different and a little offbeat. I often find that if you take a chance on these sorts of shows, you’ll be grandly rewarded with a truly fantastic adventure. Ghetto Shaman is one of those shows. The magic was great but this show is so much greater than the sum of the magic and therein lies the beauty of the show. Definitely one of the most memorable shows for me (for all the right reasons!)

“The Magic, Comedy and Something Ellis Hour” performed by Tim Ellis (+ special guests): I feel this show deserves a place in my top shows list because I received a lot of enjoyment from the shows I saw. I loved the concept of this show, how easy it was to enjoy with my friends and the lighthearted nature of the show. It was the perfect mix of magic I’d seen before as well as guests’ special magic that I’d never seen. I enjoyed that the show matched the audience of the evening – some nights the show had a more careful progression, and at other times it felt like a crazy game show with bizarre contestants. It was often the perfect show to see at the end of a night out.

MMF 2018 Review: Best of the Magic Fest

Having been to 10 Melbourne Magic Festivals so far, one of my long standing traditions is to always attend the very last show of the festival – the ‘Best of the Fest’. A great credit to show host Nicholas J Johnson is that for the final show of the festival he pull out all the stops to provide a smorgasbord of magicians to entertain the audience in the tight one hour show time. Some magicians end up with literally only a minute with which to entertain the audience, which is quite a feat in itself!

Obviously, listing out all the magicians here would be quite a task (and make for a dry review) so I’ll just mention a few highlights, but let me mention up front that there is a reason this show sometimes sells out a week before it runs – it really is that awesome. If you like to see lots of different magic – this show is for you, if you want to see short and sharp magic – this show is for you, if you’re the kind of person who’d like to see a good chunk of the festival performers all in the one show….I could go on!

Personal highlights for me during the show were David Chandler’s whimsical children’s magic (also clearly delighting adults too); mentalist Caleb Street involving the entire front row for a mind blowing prediction – which was also impressive from a logistics point of view; and Carisa Hendrix (performer of many, many talents) showing the audience her ‘sideshow’ side by ramming a massive (needle shaped) lobotomy tool up a nostril. I was so thrilled to have that unfold before my eyes, it was AH-MAZING! The wonderful Ghetto Shaman (Adam Axford) returned with some amazing word magic, and we were all treated to a visit by the Dandyman (Daniel Oldaker) with some offbeat comedy (which is what he does best).

 The best highlight for me, however, was the return of the ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ cult favourite Gary the Magician. Gary’s a natural performer, with a wide smile, enthusiastic arms and a perhaps ‘inflated’ personality. Gary is pictured within this review in all his green splendour. In previous years there were sad rumours of Gary’s retirement / untimely demise which made me very sad. When Nicholas J Johnson announced that Gary the Magician would be taking to the stage, I’m pretty sure I cheered the loudest…before crying with laughter so much during Gary’s magic routine that I was practically crying into my partner’s hoodie mid way through the routine. Gary the Magician is so special and iconic that I urge anyone who has the chance to attend a show by him to do so. He is literally ‘limited edition’ and his retirement / demise rumours resurface each year so who knows which year will mark his last visit.

 

The final “Best of the Magic Fest” is the perfect show to ‘bookend’ any trip to the Melbourne Magic Festival. It is such a delightful, energetic celebration of magic that I’m distracted enough to forget that it’s the last show of the festival (and that the festival ends after the show is done).

VERDICT: unmissable, and a runaway hit of the festival. No one forgets their experience at the last ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ so I can’t recommend this show enough. Make sure you book it in your calendar next year!

 

MMF 2018 Review: “Favole” performed by Davide Kaufmann

Continuing the magical adventures on the last evening of the Melbourne Magic Festival my partner, some close friends and I we were all keen to discover what well travelled magician Davide Kaufmann (originally hailing from Italy) had in store for us in his show ‘Favole’. Davide explained that his show title means ‘fable’ with aspects of fairytales included. Davide has a very engaging nature on stage – lots of wide arm movements and big facial expressions – which were well utilised during a storytelling based show.

Fables and stories were regularly referenced during this show, and Davide used a screen to display pictures to explain the fables he was referring to. This helped give the audience context to the stories that were being explored via magic on stage. Each piece of magic performed by Davide was well matched to a fable or story. I especially enjoyed a piece of magic involving tarot cards (which can be used in of themselves to tell stories).

Sitting in the front row, there were many moments during this show where we were all transfixed. One of these points was during a ‘Russian Roulette’ routine. Davide used various props during the routine to decrease tension and include comedy, which transformed what can be a tense routine to watch into a fun moment. Another moment where I was transfixed was during one of Davide’s personal stories of how he came to be in Australia and came to love this country.

At the end of the show, Davide included links / his contact details in case anyone wanted to know more about the fables explored during the magic show – which was a nice touch. Overall, a very enjoyable show where the storytelling points were as strong as the magic.

VERDICT: A charming story based magic show with whimsical elements alongside some great magic. Very enjoyable – easy to watch and share with friends.

*Disclaimer: we attended this show as guests of the performer

MMF 2018 Review: “Where are you Tony?” performed by Felix The Magician

On the final day of the Melbourne Magic Festival, I sat in a theatre bustling with a crowd of families and children to watch Felix The Magician’s debut show at the festival. Titled “Where are you Tony?”, the storyline was that Tony (Felix’ magical rabbit) was running late to the show and it was up to Felix to find him. The wildly colourful assortment of props on stage hinted at the comedy and magical delights that were about to unfold.

Felix himself is an affable magician. He engaged his audience well, welcoming everyone to the show and waving at the large crowd of children sitting closest to the stage. During the show itself, I particularly enjoyed the looks of surprise on Felix’ face when things comically went wrong or when he couldn’t find Tony. I very much enjoyed all the physical comedy / slapstick aspects of the show. Felix’ show also included plenty of magic – some classic magic, for sure, but also some clever pieces of magic that I’d never seen before. Some of Felix’ magic even included household / everyday objects which I found impressive.There were gasps of surprise and delight from audience members when objects disappeared or when Tony the rabbit wasn’t in the place we thought he’d be. There were also loads of laughs (as expected) during this show, especially in relation to a particular scene towards the end of the show. Felix’ show included lots of fun audience participation, which was especially enjoyed by the children in the audience.

Over the course of the show, Felix did a great job of progressing the story via magical effects until the goal was reached. Felix did well to keep his young audience members ‘on track’ with the story too, as well as addressing / acknowledging their concerns – like when children insisted that Tony the rabbit was “over there!!” (while feverishly pointing to a specific box). Those moments were very entertaining for the adults in the audience, but it also brought joy to many to see children get so involved with the storyline.

Overall I was impressed by this show – it certainly didn’t ‘feel’ like a debut festival show for Felix, he was so natural with all the magic and the show flowed well. It was a delight to see a ‘fresh’ family magic show with a fun storyline.

VERDICT: A delightful family magic show, suited to young children and families. Many laughs and magic moments were shared by all. Felix is a friendly host and talented magician, so I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend Felix’ show should he reappear at the festival in future.