Mini Review: ‘Memento’ performed by Josh Staley

On a Saturday evening, a lovely friend and I lined up eagerly to watch ‘Memento’ performed by young magician Josh Staley. I have seen Josh’s magic before, however I hadn’t had a chance to see any of his Magic Festival shows until the closing night. I guess you could say I was saving the best until last!

We were very lucky to grab some front row seats, and watched as the theatre filled up with many audience members. Josh appeared on stage in a smart outfit and began to dazzle and mystify the audience with his clever and thoughtful magic. My friend was given the lucky chance to help Josh on stage with his ‘cherry trick’ – which started with all smiles and ended in some surprises for my friend! Ever playful with his audience members, Josh takes time to ensure his on stage helpers are well looked after and enjoying themselves. Josh’s show is really about curiosities  – of magic, and of the greater world. I enjoyed that when Josh shared his magic with his audience, he often ensured that a magical ‘souvenir’ was given out (a Memento!). I was most impressed with Josh’s predictions in the show – whether it be playing card, drawing or based on personal information about particular audience members. Many of these predictions had audience members gasping and exclaiming “no way!!!”, myself included! Josh mentions his enjoyment of ‘finding the unbelievable in each day’ and I must say that this show has made me more aware (and more keen) to focus on the unbelievable moments that occur each day. The little things that happen in a day to each person can be overlooked but when looked back upon, can be incredible.

Verdict: I always find Josh’s shows to be memorable, so I encourage everyone to come along and enjoy some baffling and impressive magic from one of the young stars in the Melbourne Magic community. This is a show that can be enjoyed by families, and there were many families in the audience on the night everyone attended. Everyone was having a great time with plenty of smiles and great moments shared and that certainly made this show a highlight of my day.

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Mini Review: ‘Incantato’ performed by David Key

After a delicious local Italian pizza dinner, a lovely friend and I wandered into the Northcote Town Hall to see David Key’s show “Incantato”. It was a perfect pairing – an Italian dinner before a magic show performed by an Italian magician! I must admit that I had seen David Key perform ‘Incantato’ previously at another venue, however this did not dampen my enthusiasm and I was very excited to share this show with my friend.

David appeared onstage with a big smile to a large round of applause from the audience. Commencing with an engaging story about how he came to be in Australia (accompanied by smooth rope magic), David quickly commanded the attention of all the audience members. An assortment of magic was performed during this show (magic with cards, silks and money) all with the assistance of some lucky audience members. David always treats his audience members well, and ensures that they leave the stage with a smile which I appreciate. Even if some audience members seem nervous, David always finds a way to calm them and make them feel at ease. Personal highlights from this show were David’s witty banter (and language change!) with a helper from the audience who spoke Spanish;  and the dangerous and nail biting Russian Roulette routine (which had my friend hiding and wincing!).

Verdict: This was another fun show from David Key, and we left the theatre wanting to see more of David’s fantastic magic (as is often the case for me). I believe (at the time of writing) that David has now retired this show, however if you do get to see a magic show by David Key then I thoroughly recommend that you go along and discover how enjoyable his show is for yourself.

Mini Review: ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ Friday evening edition

One of the great events within the Melbourne Magic Festival is the nightly show ‘Best of the Magic Fest’. Even if you only attended this show every evening, chances are you’d have seen bite sized performances from just about every performer within the festival. As the lineup changes each night, even a repeat visitor such as myself will see something different within each show and I relish that. After watching 4 other magic shows on this particular day, my enthusiasm for magic had not waned and I eagerly awaited the show.

The lineup on this evening consisted of comedy magic offerings from Dave Lee, the ventriloquism stylings of Sarah Jones and mentalism from Bayden Hammond. Each performer brought a different style of magic to the (close up) table in the theatre, which the audience appreciated. Dave Lee kept the laughs coming through his routine which involved a fantastic prediction, while Bayden Hammond impressed with his stories and card routines (with some mentalism included of course!). The personal highlight for me was Sarah Jones, who brought along some of her (puppet) friends. A lucky member of the audience even had the chance to have a magical duet with one of the puppets, which was an equally hilarious and sweet moment.

Verdict: Consistently a fantastic show to attend, ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ does not disappoint! A fine choice for those unsure about which show to attend, those who enjoy variety or those who are up late. ‘Best of the Magic Fest’ has a broad appeal. An added bonus of this particular show was watching puppets enjoy some cookies (literally!).

Mini Review: ‘RanDom’ performed by Dom Chambers

It has been a few year since I’ve seen a solo show by Dom Chambers, so I was extra excited to see his show “RanDom” with a small bunch of friends. Dom opened the show by telling the audience about how he first became interested in magic, and the sorts of magic he was interested in and experimented with as a youngster. This led to an industrial blender being unveiled on stage…I won’t mention what took place next except to say that the audience simply could not believe their eyes!! Dom’s show verified his mastery of modern magic as he weaved guitar playing (featuring music loops), artwork, and beautiful storytelling with his magic. There were segments of audience participation (of course!) and Dom was very attuned to his audience, with his volunteers enhancing the magical experience for everyone in the audience. Dom literally had his volunteers dancing, smiling and laughing at various points during his show (and sometimes all at once). I struggle to write how much I enjoyed this show – this show left me wanting more so I hope I can see another of Dom’s performances soon.

Verdict: Undoubtedly one of the most innovative magic shows I have seen in some time. I left the show impressed and feeling very entertained. Dom has honed his craft over the years and is certainly a magician to keep an eye on in the future. If you like surprising magic with a modern flair, then I heartily encourage you to attend one of Dom’s future shows.

Mini Review: ‘Things by Simon’ performed by Simon Coronel

On a fun Friday evening at the Melbourne Magic Festival, I was fortunate enough to attend Simon Coronel’s show “Things by Simon”. I was excited to see this show as Simon was once a Melbourne based magician, but is now in California so it was a treat to have him return to the festival and wow local audiences. Those who have seen Simon’s solo shows previously would know that he presents stylish, suave magic that makes you think long after the curtains have been drawn and the audience has left the theatre. Simon opened his show with an elegant close up card routine, which was projected on a screen for those up the back to see.  Simon has a relaxed way of addressing his audience throughout his show, yet still having plenty of mystery about him and his magical talents. One aspect of Simon’s shows that I admire is his insistence on ‘magic with consent’ – that is, there are multiple chances throughout his show for audience members to assist with the magic (and often receive a unique magical souvenir for their efforts) however the audience members must agree to help out of their own free will. There’s no forcing of audience interactions or helpers here, and that in turn helps to foster a trust between the audience and Simon. The magic Simon weaved for his audience was at times amusing and light hearted, and at other points had a more intriguing story or outcome behind it.  Items traditionally seen in magic shows made an appearance (cards, coins and banknotes) however Simon also included some other surprises that easily held the audience’s attention.  I saw magic during this show that still baffles me to this day and I enjoy that aspect of Simon’s performance! Audible gasps were heard during Simon’s show and I saw many wide smiles and impressed looking audience members which added to my own enjoyment of the show.

Verdict: A thoroughly enjoyable show full of ‘modern miracles’. I consider Simon’s shows to be unmissable during the Magic Festival. If you have the chance to catch a magic show by Simon Coronel, then please go ahead and take that chance! You’ll be very glad you did.

Mini Review: ‘The Great Armando’s Suitcase of Magic’ performed by David Key

Magician David Key has an alter ego for his younger audiences – The Great Armando. Armando is clearly well travelled, and carries with him an intriguing suitcase of magical surprises.  Upon entering the theatre, young audience members were invited to sit on mats at the front so they can be extra close to The Great Armando, and have the magic happen right in front of their eyes! The Great Armando opened the show with his vibrant personality and a story about birthday parties, accompanied by clever rope magic.

Throughout the show, there were opportunities for audience members to shout responses to / at Armando, as well as chances for younger audience members to help create some magic. A personal favourite was a shared task to help Armando make a birthday cake, with various children making some wild suggestions (mustard?!) along with the usual cake ingredients and helping Armando to put all the ingredients into his magical cake pan. If you think children’s magic shows are all plain sailing, then guess again as Armando’s crazy adventures led him to juggle swords and glimpse fire (all safely of course – Armando is well trained and responsible). Armando is a genuinely lovely performer and goes to great lengths to ensure that everyone is welcome and having a great time at his show. Many times I was surrounded by happy faces, and the sound of laughter (including my own). I left the theatre feeling happy and blessed to have seen such a fun show. Sharing laughter and the joy of magic with friends made this show memorable.

Verdict: Fantastic family show suitable for very young children and up. A pleasant and entertaining show for adults, while Armando will have the children transfixed by his fun magic and excitable personality. Armando himself acts like a ‘big kid’ at times, which adds to the fun atmosphere of this show. A great show for all ages – travel with Armando on a fun, magic journey.

Mini Review: ‘Tricky Nick is a Super Bad Guy’ performed by Nicholas J Johnson

During this year’s magic festival, I was fortunate to be able to take a day off from my day job (in Marketing and Event Management) which meant that on the last Friday of the festival I was able to spend the entire day watching magic shows (including some hilarious children’s magic shows). The first show I attended on my day of magic was ‘Tricky Nick is a Super Bad Guy’. Tricky Nick has had a season of sold out shows, so myself (and the large crowd gathering outside the theatre) were curious to see what Nick had in store for us – and more importantly answer the question “is he really a bad guy?” With assorted props lined up along the stage, I knew the audience was in for a hilarious hour of magical escapades. Opening the show with a baffling routine of transformations involving cereal and milk, Tricky Nick addressed the audience and made sure he regularly ‘checked in’ with the children and adults alike during his magic quest to raise money for some nefarious plans! Strap yourself in for a hilarious and loud magic show with Tricky Nick, featuring lots of surprises – Tricky Nick even has a nemesis who makes guest appearances to check up on Nick and ensure he is being good. On the day I attended, the children in the audience deemed that Tricky Nick had in fact not been well behaved (good) so his nemesis had to repeatedly visit, much to the cheering and laughter of the audience. Tricky Nick has some fantastic props to help him with his magical quest – keep your eyes peeled for his fancy time machine. This show was so enjoyable and it was such a treat to see the excitement and joy in children’s eyes as they laughed at Tricky Nick, and waved their arms in the air in an effort to get selected to help Tricky Nick on stage. It was certainly a fun way to commence a day of magic. Is Tricky Nick a Super Bad Guy? You’ll have to come along to the show to find out.

Verdict: Ideal family entertainment, and suitable for children of many ages. Adults are not left out with plenty of nods to them (and some bonus pop culture references too). Tricky Nick performs a super fun show!

Mini Review: ‘Cath Jamison: Conjure Woman’ performed by Cath Jamison

A good friend and I had a great outing at the Melbourne Magic Festival to see ‘Cath Jamison: Conjure Woman’. While we waited in line to enter the theatre, the audience was instructed to think of a childhood memory and write it down on a piece of paper when we enter. This encouraged our anticipation of what was to come! Cath appeared on stage – dazzling and delightful as always. Cath’s smile and upbeat personality draws audiences into her gaze, which is all part of her magical charm of course. If you’ve never been to one of Cath’s shows before you are missing out! The evening’s show was a variety of mysterious magical delights – predictions, hypnotism and even a voodoo ritual took place, all with plenty of audience participation. Cath always includes some danger in her performance, much to the encouragement of audience members who obviously enjoy a side of danger to their magic too. The show’s finale was as intriguing as Cath herself, so if you ever have the opportunity to see this show at some stage in the future, I highly recommend it. My friend and I left the theatre breathless from all the magic, mystery and wonder that had taken place in front of our eyes that evening.

Verdict: mysterious and entertaining, Cath Jamison’s show will leave you marvelling at her magical talents and craving more. Sparkling in both attitude and outfit, keep an eye on Cath Jamison – who knows what she will conjure up next?

Mini Review: ‘Dane Certificate’s Trotting Complex’ performed by Dane Certificate

As a repeat audience member at the Melbourne Magic Festival over a number of years, I have learned not to miss Dane Certificate’s show. Dane’s shows are often considered the ‘dark horse’ of the magic festival – the type of show that you should take a chance on, because it may just surprise you the most! Again this year, I was not disappointed (though with Dane’s show, I never am). Having seen Dane’s shows over the previous couple of years I expected music – loud and all encompassing at times, and romantic (almost relaxing) at others. Immediately I knew this show was different as it was performed in silence, with only some sound effects as a ‘backing track’. Another feature that was markedly different to previous years is that Dane’s show this year had a clearer narrative: a factory worker was blind to the magic around him and longed to escape to another world.

Dane’s shows are often described as surreal – like a magical trip to another world and I agree with that. His shows are immersive and while I’m focusing on his magic I’m forgetting where I am (almost who I am). As objects transformed into other objects and the mundane became magical I honestly did not know what to expect next and that made my pulse race with excitement. With surprise appearances, disappearances and reveals of curious objects this show was like a trip down the rabbit hole of Alice in Wonderland. A world of unexpected wonders and surprises curated by Dane himself.

Verdict: I implore you to take time out of your usual routine and world to witness one of Dane’s shows. Whilst perhaps not ideal for children (however the content / narrative was family friendly and there were children in the audience) or first time magic show attendees, one thing is for certain: the dark horse is often the most rewarding.

Mini Review: ‘Max Maven’

During the second week of the Melbourne Magic Festival, I witnessed the mind reading genius of Max Maven in his self titled show ‘Max Maven’. Max was the second International headliner of the festival and visited us all the way from California, USA. Before I write this review I must mention – Yes, he did have a fantastic accent and narration voice (something I thoroughly enjoyed, along with his dry sense of humour) and No – he did not read my mind (though perhaps that was for the best). I also must confess that I have been delaying this review on purpose – it is a challenge to succinctly write about a mind reader who knows when audience members are thinking in colour!

Max Maven appeared as if from a faraway land and was dressed in dark robes with a piercing stare as he considered his audience. From the moment he glided to the microphone, I knew the audience was in for a very special evening. Max commenced his show with a surprising card effect involving an audience member he selected. I stared in disbelief as exactly the same card kept returning to the audience member even though Max appeared to make it even less likely for the card to appear again (even after what it seemed like 10 times in a row!). Max seemed to have such control over his audience members that he knew where certain audience members would sit when they approached a row of chairs on stage. I stared on in disbelief, hoping that my mouth wasn’t too ajar however I’m sure that if he caught my eyes they’d have been wide with wonder (and perhaps a touch of apprehension!). My favourite moment of the entire evening was Max correctly guessing an (obscure!) item from a lady’s handbag and then guessing what the same lady had drawn on a sheet of paper – all while completely blindfolded via duct tape strapped over his eyelids. My jaw dropped when Max announced that even though his helper from the audience had drawn an image in black and white, she was thinking of the image in colour!!! I have seen some mentalism / mind reading over the years but never a statement so finely tuned as that.

I left the show honestly questioning many things: where I was in the world, how much one can know about their own mind when a mind reader can pick when people are thinking in colour or not and which chair other audience members are going to sit on. I left the show with my day emptied but my mind full.

Verdict: if you come across the opportunity to witness the marvels of Max Maven, take the opportunity and see his show! I found it mind expanding and a magic experience like no other and I’m sure you will too.