Review: ‘The Variety Gala’

During my very social month of July, I ventured out on a cold Sunday evening to a small bar called ‘Pulp Club’ off bustling Little Bourke Street to see ‘The Variety Gala’. I have many fond memories of watching variety shows in Melbourne, so I’m always keen to check out Variety shows that I haven’t seen. It was an intimate theatre within a small bar on a cold night, however the bar was warm, the crowd fun and the performers welcoming.

The show was hosted by Raymond Truong – magician and man of of a variety of talents so he was well suited as host. The audience were keen to experience the night of variety unfold in front of the them. Raymond opened the show with a card magic routine involving a volunteer from the audience, which had the whole room laughing. It was a great way to start the night.

Next on stage was a very special guest – a mind reader  / hypnotist from England by the name of David Stewart. To answer some common queries – yes his accent was lovely and his performance was amazing. Ever charming, David addressed the audience as ‘witches and wizards’, which made me very happy as when I hear English accents I do still think of Harry Potter! David scanned the audience, deciding on the audience members to select for his segment of mind reading. Volunteers from the audience were asked to imagine a card and think of a number….both of which David announced correctly. It’s so uncanny to watch a mind reader ‘pick’ information from the minds of others. At times this makes me nervous, however David always ensures his audience volunteers are well looked after and are at ease. The mind reading mayhem didn’t end there, with David being able to find out the pass code to a man’s mobile phone via holding the man’s hand and having the volunteer repeat numbers in his head! Given how much personal information is stored in each person’s mobile phone, I found this to be mildly unsettling (however also incredible). Time seems to speed up when I’m enjoying watching performances of mind reading / hypnotism and David’s performance seemed to be over in the blink of an eye. He definitely left the audience thoroughly baffled and wanting to experience more.

Raymond Truong returned to the stage with his classic and entertaining mime routine and multiplying balls (which kept emerging from the strangest places!). If you haven’t seen Raymond perform, then you are missing out – his performances are full of energy and he clearly enjoys what he’s performing, which is a treat for the audience to see. Next, Raymond presented a coin routine involving 2 volunteers from the audience, which garnered many laughs. Raymond has such fine coin handling skills, so this act is definitely one to keep your eye on! Never one to miss juggling, Raymond treated his audience to an enjoyable routine of juggling mayhem, involving varying objects (including his signature hat and cane).

After a short break, another special guest appeared – young Melbourne magician LJ the Magician. LJ treated the audience with some fantastic card magic, before making a special souvenir for one volunteer. LJ has some great comedy and timing involved in all his magic, so this special appearance was all the more exciting and wonderful. Comedian Jai Ashman provided the comedic break in the evening, sharing some contemporary jokes regarding his girlfriend, Facebook, and Brexit with the audience. This comedian had some unusual segues between jokes, however towards the end of his set it was clear that no topic was sacred (which was at times refreshing and at other times slightly awkward!). One of his lines was ‘don’t explain yourself to anyone’ and that was an apt motto for his performance.

The final performance for the evening was by ‘Australia’s honest Con Man’ Nicholas J Johnson. You may think that after the mind reader had a dip into a few audience members’ minds earlier in the evening that people would be less keen to help out a self professed ‘honest con man’ however the evening’s audience was ever willing to volunteer, which was great to see. Nicholas is an expert at picking out liars, so when playing a ‘lying game’ with the audience it was an easy task for him to pick who was lying and who was not. At times, it felt as though Nicholas was ‘interrogating’ the audience (but in a fun way!). A highlight of Nicholas’ performance was when he performed ‘psychic surgery’ on himself by inserting a large nail up his nose (and then pulling it out with a large hammer!). The looks on the faces of the audience members were priceless! There were a group of ladies that were huddled together, shielding their eyes from the horror! Of course Nicholas had to leer over at them, so they could check the nail was really up his nose. Classic!

This show had everything I would expect from a variety show (magic, circus, comedy, mystery, danger) and more, with some fantastic special guests. This show is also unusual in that it is free entry, and you just pay what you believe the show was worth at the conclusion of the show. I have come across this concept before, but not regularly. At the conclusion  of the show, all the performers were around to chat with and I noticed the mind reader  / hypnotist (David Stewart) charming a posse of audience members so it’s nice that you can hang around after the show if you wish to. The bar is warm and well stocked so it’s a nice place to spend a Sunday evening.

VERDICT: An enjoyable show, and a great way to finish of a weekend. This show is ideal for adults, and the venue isn’t too hard to find. I had such a fun time, I have no doubt I’ll be back for more at some point as the lineup changes each month.

Tickets: The Variety Gala is usually held on the first Sunday evening of each month at Pulp Club. See link below for tickets:


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