MMF 2019: BONUS LIST of shows that made me cry with laughter!

Well, the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival was an incredible ride that including many surprising moments and of course much laughter and enjoyment. In fact, one of the outcomes of my time at the festival is that I realised I laughed every single day that I was there (as opposed to my usual life where I obviously do not laugh enough some days)!

In light of that, I present to you a NEW LISTING for 2019: a list of the 3 shows during the Melbourne Magic Festival that made me cry with laughter. Yes, I am easily entertained but not every show makes me cry with laughter…I have sacrificed eye makeup and my clothing sleeves a few times to wipe away my tears as I try to regain my composure. It feels good to laugh so much, so I hope you enjoy this new list!

“MagicSports” performed by teams of magicians
A show like TheatreSports….except everything is magical. The segment / game titled “Make a trick” usually has me laughing way too much but this year, there were another two games that also had me crying with laughter: “style rollercoaster” featuring hilarious interpretive dance and “arms expert” with wild gestures and movements. “Balloonatics” was a new game which also made me laugh a lot too. I laughed so much during this show that I very nearly wet myself so I guess take that as a warning: YOU WILL LAUGH LOTS during this show!! Hot tip: Take minimal caffeine and use the bathroom before the show.

“The Great Kaplan” performed by David Kaplan
The opening sequence in his show slayed me! Whilst he was moving on with the rest of his performance it took a while for me to regain my composure after the hilarious sequence of events that opened his show. The ‘happy crying face emoji’ is apt here…David Kaplan’s show was loaded with comedy – much more comedy than I expected. I still smile when I think of his show.

“Friends of Friends” performed by various ‘friends’ of magicians
A new and quite thrilling show for 2019. I love character magic, so this show already had a strong appeal however I had no idea of exactly what was in store. The ‘Friends’ that appeared during the show just kept getting funnier and funnier as the night went along….standout hilarity goes to “Nostradamicus” with his Russian roulette style soda routine; “Demona” who slayed me with her witty one liners and hilarious sword fight routine; and “Barry Rumpey” with his psychic surgery on an audience volunteer who prompted much of the comedy…this show was wild and I loved every minute. I hope it returns in future!

MMF 2019: Tay’s Top 10 Shows

 Sadly, the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival has vanished for another year – the magicians have packed their suitcases, waved their wands and are probably appearing elsewhere by now. I always feel sad to see the festival go, because for two weeks I feel like it’s a wonderful magical adventure each and every day with special moment around every corner. Beyond the magic, the Melbourne Magic Festival always presents an opportunity to laugh and enjoy magic with my friends, and to meet new friends. Additionally, 2019 was the first year I was able to take the full two weeks off from my ‘day job’ to fully immerse myself in the festival (which made me immensely happy), and to write about each of the 38 shows that I saw. This also means that I hold a new PERSONAL BEST of 38 SHOWS SEEN during the magic festival’s two weeks!!

For those of you new to this blog, 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 excelled either in presentation, magical effects or by blowing away my expectations. Often these are the sorts of shows I talk about long after the festival has ended (sometimes even years afterwards!) Each year I’ve compiled this list, the amount of shows on the list has changed- this year there are 10 shows on the list (plus a couple of bonus ‘special mentions’!). There are also more mentions of family shows on the list – due to number of shows seen and vastly higher numbers of family shows on the festival program this year. Another change this year (probably partly due to the fallout of watching 38 shows!) is that I have a NEW listing which will be in a separate blog post….of the 3 shows that made me cry with laughter!

Please enjoy Tay’s Top Ten shows for the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival, and congratulations to those who made the list!

“What The F*** And Other Things You’ll Say Tomorrow” performed by Vyom Sharma
During the first week of the festival, this show was the talk of the festival itself – and for good reason! Totally impressive show that blew away all my expectations. It was well put together and weeks later I’m still thinking about this show. I loved the modern references and nature of much of the content and the surprises that just kept coming.

“Indulgence with Lucy Darling” performed by Carisa Hendrix
What more can I say about the incredible magician and character that is Lucy Darling?!! She has this amazing (and quite frankly unparalleled) habit of just blowing me away with her beautiful  magic each time she appears in Melbourne. A lot of people have had to listen to me ‘rabbit on’ about Lucy (especially my partner) but it’s all for good reason. She’s often the talk of the festival, and I wouldn’t be surprised if she gets her own fan club here soon. If you haven’t seen a Lucy Darling show yet, you’re missing out – treat yourself to her amazing magic next time she’s in town!

“The Handsome Jack Experience” performed by John Lovick
We are so lucky in Melbourne to have Handsome Jack come and visit us! He has an awesome reputation and show to match. Handsome Jack is the complete package: suave (think of a secret agent / James Bond type who also does magic!) incredibly talented, mystifying and with a delightful show. Bonus – dreamy narration voice! He wowed many audience members and ensure we all had a great time – what more could you want?!

“Lu Chen: Live in Melbourne” performed by Lu Chen
One of the international superstars of the festival, and (judging by the fact his entire show run was sold out pre festival) one of the hotly anticipated stars that everyone was keen to watch. Lu Chen’s show was highly enjoyable and had some exquisite moments. Top class mentalism with strong storytelling and surprising moments right up to the show’s end. Simply fascinating

“The Great Kaplan” performed by David Kaplan
Another international superstar of the festival, The Great Kaplan’s show was an entertaining, highly surprising and often hilarious adventure. It was so exciting as I literally had no idea what to expect! I laughed way more than I ever expected to laugh during this show. There were some scenes that may have caused my brain to break just a little (those that saw the show will know what I’m referring to). What’s better is that this was a perfect show for families too – The Great Kaplan’s show really has it all.

“The Quizzical Mr Jeff” performed by Mr Jeff
This was an unusual show in that it was very circus based (however still very magical, with magic features included) AND it was predominantly performed in silence. Mr Jeff’s show is one of the shows that I’ve been thinking about a lot, and it has already been over 2 weeks since I saw his show! All of Mr Jeff’s variety of skills are amazing, his show is hilarious and I immensely enjoyed the audience interaction elements. His contact juggling took me to another dimension. I can’t say enough good things about him and his show!

“Boondoggle” performed by Nick Nickolas and Ruby T
I had reports all week of people enjoying this show, and I was not disappointed! Nick Nickolas and Ruby T performed a highly entertaining show that combined each of their talents with some great storylines. Nick himself is multi talented but for his show his forte seemed to be card magic and quick one liners with the audience; Ruby T charmed the audience with her fantastic mind reading and sweet comedy / facial experessions / interpretive dance. This show was a true delight and still makes me smile thinking about it a week later.

“Flower Press Parts 1 and 2” performed by Dane Certificate
Dane’s shows are a consistent personal highlight for me, as his shows are non linear and very surreal- which basically enhances the unexpected nature of his shows. To write too much about what goes on would be to give far too much away. Dane Certificate’s shows are for those who seek to look beyond the traditional concepts of magic shows. Often his shows combine many art forms in one (magic; theatre; origami etc). ALWAYS a personal highlight.

“Vincent” performed by Vincent Kuo
Vincent approaches magic in a different way to others and I vastly appreciate that. An extremely humble magician who often doesn’t provide any blurb for his show, you simply need to attend the show and just sit back in wonder. Impressive and exquisite magic that will have you thinking long after the show has passed await you at Vincent’s show. His show was a celebration of many things, and I felt so uplifted afterwards.

“MAYHEM!” performed by Brendan Dooley
This family magic show was WAY too enjoyable to not include! Some children’s / family magic shows can be a bit dry or disengaging for adults, but Brendan made sure his show was enjoyable for everyone. There were hilarious moments, fantastic interactions with audience volunteers and some surprising magic (that even surprised me!) MAYHEM! blew away all my expectations away and Brendan Dooley himself is a natural on stage – talented and a joy to watch. Thinking about this show still makes me smile.

Given the number of shows I saw this year, the top ten list was a challenge to compile so I also wanted to give a quick ‘shout out’ for some shows that have earned special mentions:
“Almost Unbelievable” performed by Chi Han Yeo: in fact was an unbelievable show of card magic and storytelling. I feel sad for those who missed out on this show.

“The World Awaits You” performed by Lachlan Wilde: firstly, I take my hat off to Lachlan for an awesome show title. Secondly, the show was pure enjoyment to watch. I’ve seen Lachlan’s magic for a while now but I loved how everything came together in this show.

“Up Close and Personal” performed by Carisa Hendrix: we are lucky to have Carisa Hendrix bring her cast of wonderful characters to the magic festival, but this show makes us even luckier. I’m sure it’s easier to hide behind characters however each year Carisa goes a step beyond, sheds her characters and shows audiences some truly amazing close up magic. A recurring festival highlight for me.

“Now You See Us” performed by Lee Cohen, Nicola Gidley and Prue Spencer: a fantastic show by some incredibly talented women. Such an enjoyable show with some important messages.

MMF 2019 Review: The Best of the Magic Fest – Finale Edition

Having attended eleven Melbourne Magic Festivals so far, one of my long standing traditions each year is to attend the final installment of ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’  – I love this tradition so much that often the very first festival ticket I buy is the one to the very last show of ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’. During the course of the Melbourne Magic Festival, ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’ is the last show to run each night and features a rotation of guest magicians. The finale edition of ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’ is the one to attend however as it features a constant magical stream of performers popping in to perform short pieces of magic. How many performers you ask? Well no one is ever sure but for 2019 the tally exceeded twenty performers! That’s right – OVER TWENTY!

At the helm of this madcap show is Nicholas J Johnson who tries (as much as he can) to keep the show on track. This year he tried to insist the audience had ‘had enough’ (much like a bartender calling last drinks / trying to refuse service to drunk patrons) only to be voraciously shouted down by the audience who wanted more – and more magic we were served. To be honest, at the end of the show most of the audience didn’t want to leave – we’d happily be trapped in that room to watch magic all night if we could.

Naturally there are far too many magicians performing to mention here, however I will mention that an incredibly wide variety of magical pieces are showcased during this show – from sponge ball magic you might see at a children’s magic show right through to prompt card miracles that left audience members shaking their head in disbelief. The magic is swift, as are the changeovers between performers – to blink is to risk missing some of the action. Some special guests at this show didn’t even have shows at the festival and one was even lining up to try and watch the show and was dragged on stage – that’s how surprising the lineup is!

The finale of ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’ is always the most of everything – the MOST magical pieces, the MOST madcap and is often the MOST entertaining to. It is magic at its MOST excessive….but I wouldn’t have it any other way. At the conclusion of this show, my hands were dry from clapping so much and my voice was hoarse but I was so happy. The only question I had left was: what happened to Gary the Magician? (Gary is a much loved special guest who only appears at the last ‘best of the fest’ show).

VERDICT: my hot tip is to book your tickets NOW to ‘The Best of the Magic Fest’ at the 2020 Melbourne Magic Festival! Definitely a festival highlight that consistently surprises and endures.

*PS: seriously though, what happened to Gary? DO I need to place ‘Missing’ posters around town? We miss him and I’m sure his family needs him too. Gary, if you’re out there, please come back. x

MMF 2019 Review: As Seen On ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’

For those unaware, world famous Las Vegas magicians Penn & Teller host a TV show called ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’ where magicians from all over the world perform a routine to try and fool Penn & Teller themselves. The routines on this show are very entertaining, however rarely are Penn & Teller fooled. Back at the Melbourne Magic Festival, three magicians who’ve appeared on that program (with one of them fooling Penn & Teller on the TV show) combined forces to create an incredibly entertaining spectacle of magical delights. Those magicians are: Simon Coronel; Dom Chambers and Reuben Moreland.

Having seen much of the work by Simon Coronel and Dom Chambers previously (and indeed each of their individual shows at the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival), I had expectations of what the show would include. I had zero expectations for Reuben Moreland’s performance and I was utterly delighted and thrilled with what I experienced. Reuben’s routine involved his favourite toys from his childhood toy box and it was such a joy to watch. So many surprising moments and comedy woven into a magical masterpiece. Simon Coronel and Dom Chambers of course showcased their own magical acts they each performed on the program which were equally awesome and wonderful to behold in ‘real time’ as opposed to on a screen.

The entire show was enhanced by video screens playing hilarious clips from ‘Penn & Teller: Fool Us’ as well as an old viral video of Reuben Moreland which brought the audience many laughs and helped to break up the magical acts into neat segments. The separate showcase by each performer was mixed in with magical pieces involving all performers which I thought greatly enhanced the show to be greater than the sum of its parts. The entire show was incredibly entertaining, whether you’re a fan / familiar with the TV show or not. My partner attending this show with me was not at all familiar with the TV program but thoroughly enjoyed the magic, the laughs and the spectacle of the show itself which is testament to the wide appeal of this show.

VERDICT: don’t be fooled – you’re in for a fantastic evening of magic, comedy and surprises with this show. Highly enjoyable and highly recommended.

MMF 2019 Review: Simon Coronel: Experimental

Rolling into the closing evening of the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival, my partner and I were very excited to catch Simon Coronel’s special experimental show. I’ve enjoyed Simon’s magic for a number of years, but the experimental nature of the show was too much to resist. My partner, on the other hand, hadn’t seen much of Simon’s magic so I knew we’d be in for a surprising show.

The opening segments of this show were highly theatrical and done largely silently, using physical comedy, facial expressions and mime. An elaborate setup for a prediction envelope was constructed, which was an unusual way to start the show. Simon’s silent routine with a Pringles can is highly entertaining and definitely needs to be seen! After a few silent theatrical pieces of magic, Simon commenced speaking to the audience and welcoming everyone to the show, mentioning the some pieces of the show will seem to be more random and less scripted than others – hence the name of the show.

Some truly astonishing magic followed – especially the card magic and some incredible ring manipulation. One of my personal highlights was a piece of fun magic based on a popular streaming service. Throughout the show, Simon used a wide variety of props (most looking like they shouldn’t be in a magic show) which added to the odd and delightful adventures within the show. In this show, Simon proved he could be experimental yet still impressive – I often glanced around the audience to watch audience members wide eyed and open mouthed with shock and surprise.

The Melbourne Magic Festival encourages performers to take risks during their shows, and I really enjoyed the ‘risky’ experimental nature of Simon’s show. If you have the chance to see the show, take it – it’s an opportunity to see some different interpretations of what’s magical.

VERDICT: surprising, theatrical, exciting and magical – this experiment is the one you should make the time to see.

MMF 2019 Review: You CAN Ask That – panel of women in magic

One of the new initiatives for the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival was a panel of women in magic, titled “You CAN Ask That”. Hosted by multi talented performer and magician Carisa Hendrix – who also co-hosts a feminist podcast about magic with magician Kayla Drescher called ‘Shezam!‘ – the panel provided the opportunity for the public to ask any questions they liked, with a focus of women in magic. Whether online / before the event or in person at the panel, the public had many opportunities to send questions through.

Carisa Hendrix hosted the panel and kept the entire event focused / on topic, while the panel was made up of: young magician Prue Spencer; comedian and show producer Liz Skitch; and well known magicians Cath Jamison, Simone Turkington (currently based in L.A) and Lee Cohen. Panel discussions ranged from ‘how did you get started in magic?’ through to ‘do men and women perform magic differently?’ and ‘volunteer choices – male or female?’ and of course if they have any advice for women starting in magic / thinking of getting started in magic.

I found the panel informative, modern and fascinating, as I’m not a magician myself (though I have seen a lot of magic shows over the years) and each panelist had different experiences and perspectives to share. Much of the content was extremely positive and encouraging (especially the advice section) which was a nice note for the panel to end on. The panel was conducted respectfully, with each performer having time with the microphone. It would take me a long time to write about all of the conversations and comments that took place however I did like the broad messages of wanting magic to be an all inclusive activity and space for everyone to enjoy together; and the message of not to feel intimidated & that you are worthwhile and valid  – both important messages in an art form and world where ego can override things sometimes and people can become competitive.

The panel members and host all ensured that the audience walked away from the worthwhile activity with plenty of ‘food for thought’. I hope the festival includes more panels in future as it was a valuable activity that provided some interesting perspectives and some beneficial messages.

MMF 2019 Review: Vincent

Returning to The MC Showroom in trendy Prahran, I was super excited to watch Vincent Kuo’s self titled show “Vincent”. I saw Vincent’s mind blowing show at the Melbourne Magic Festival in 2018 (and to be honest with you, there are elements of the show that have stayed with me for a full twelve months) so there was no chance I was going to miss his return for the 2019 festival.

Vincent is perhaps one of the most mysterious magicians in the program, in fact his show blurb was blank so you really had to be there to find out what the show was all about. In front of an intimate audience, Vincent mentioned that he was going to show us some of the strongest magic that he had – and he did. Vincent’s moves (especially with notes and cards) are lightening fast and extremely fluid. The audience just stared on in disbelief, and we could all hardly believe our eyes. Vincent is the type of magician that regularly fools other magicians, such is the high standard of his skills and artful composition of magical effects. If there was a focus of the show, it was the concept of “originality / arts vs commercialism” and an exploration of the pros and cons of each concept, demonstrated via magic. I very much enjoyed the parallels between music and magic (which I had never considered before). I also enjoyed Vincent’s thoughtful dialogue throughout the show, in particular the line “impressive things don’t necessarily connect with people”.

Time itself is an illusion with this show – there are moments when it seems like time slows down, just enough for you to catch up with all the magic, then in another moment it’s all over and everything fades to black and the audience is thrust back out into the turbulent world.

VERDICT: DO. NOT. MISS!!! Vincent’s show always have an unparalleled depth far beyond others. Poetic and beautiful magic pieces are fused with ideas and philosophy to create magic beyond anything else you’ll see. Vincent takes each show beyond the base concept of “magic” (and the accompanying audience expectations) but to see exactly where, you’ll just have to join him on that journey.

*Disclaimer: I attended this performance as a guest of the festival

MMF 2019 Review: Boondoggle

 This curiously titled show is performed by father daughter duo Nick Nickolas and Ruby T. A mix of families and adults gathered in the Secret Room to enjoy a magic show that was rich with stories, many card miracles and some superb mind reading by ‘Australia’s youngest mind reader’ Ruby T.

I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this show! Nick is an expert storyteller and the dynamic between himself and Ruby T provided much of the comedy for the evening. The show itself was a glorious mix of magic, stories, curiosity and comedy in perfect balance and I enjoyed every minute. I’m hesitant to spoil exactly what happened during the show, however I can say there was an incredible piece of magic that left the room focused in silence – you could have heard a pin drop – and a fun mind reading segment by Ruby T which was a feat in itself. While some mind reading routines can be dry, Ruby T managed to entertain and impress the audience at the one time – which isn’t always an easy task when the audience has all their eyes on you.

‘Boondoggle’ had a depth that I haven’t seen regularly in other shows, with Nick discussing the mathematical Fibonacci sequence and how that is intertwined in the universe and nature, while Ruby T provided some entertaining mime sequences (ensuring the pieces didn’t get too serious!) It’s a curious, cheerful, impressive show that will leave you wanting more.

VERDICT: completely captivating from start to finish, Boondoggle with bamboozle you with magic and fun moments.

MMF 2019 Review: Up Close and Personal – Carisa Hendrix

For the past few years, multi talented (and multi faceted) Canadian magician and performer Carisa Hendrix has brought some of her characters to the Melbourne Magic Festival – yes, I’m referring to Lucy Darling (among others). For the second year in a row, Carisa Hendrix has also performed a special ‘one night only’ showing of her own close up magic skills – with no giant wigs or strange accents involved. This presents an exciting chance for the audience to see the mastermind behind all those characters perform some impressive and beautiful routines, along with some fascinating and enjoyable stories. This also presents a large amount of bravery on the part of the performer, as in this show there’s no grand persona to hide behind – there are however, grand amounts of beauty and magic in this show. It’s my second year in a row seeing this show, and it remains a personal festival highlight.

I’m not sure how much I should write of the magic that takes place during this show. Much of it is impressive and very surprising (even to me – someone who has seen a lot of magic shows). Personal highlights for me: Carisa’s impressive coin magic; her magic with cards that had a hilarious backstory; and a surprising piece of new magic that was unexpected! In fact, it’s hard to choose highlights – I feel this show is a combined ‘showreel’ of highlights in its entirety. Magic pieces within this show do appear to change year by year so even if you see the show once, you’ll likely wish to see it again.

Magician / entertainer or not, I feel there is an immense amount to gain by experiencing this show. You get a glimpse into another person’s life experiences; you have a rare chance to see impressive close up magic that may not have been seen before. Carisa Hendrix has a wealth of knowledge and observations on many things, and some of those are included in the show too.

I remain hopeful that this show returns every year at the Melbourne Magic Festival, and don’t hesitate to recommend this show to anyone who enjoys close up magic and especially for those who are intrigued beyond Carisa Hendrix’s characters to the core performer herself.

VERDICT: An impressive evening of close up magic paired with fascinating stories combined with a glimpse beyond character magic from a multi talented performer. Do not miss this show!

MMF 2019 Review: Friends of Friends

Over time, I’ve discovered that some of my most favourite magical presentation styles are character magic / magic involving storylines. “Friends of Friends” was billed as a special one night only event where the audience was introduced to the special “friends” of some of the magicians within the festival. As soon as I heard of this concept, I knew it would be an unmissable show and an evening of unbridled hilarity – I was not wrong!

Definitely in the (new) category of “shows that have made me cry with laughter”, the ‘friends’ in this show were highly comedic while also being very magical and theatrical. Many different kinds of ‘friends’ were introduced, from a Pet Psychic to a Jedi Magician to ‘special guests’ seemingly visiting from Las Vegas. It’s difficult to select a favourite performer  / character, however there were some in particular that made me extra excited / cry with laughter: Stunning “Demona Loveless” (echoing the beautiful looks of Elvira crossed with Morticia Addams) certainly stunned / charmed some of the male members of the audience and presented a highly entertaining sword fight / sword swallowing routine; there was a magical wrestling match between “Matty Wild vs Inmate 211” that had the audience vocal and shouting for more – seriously the body slams were epic! Psychic surgeon Barry Rumpey was also a hit, namely due to the fact his volunteer was submitted / coerced by his friends and could barely look at any of the ‘surgery’ that was taking place. It was an utterly hilarious routine that just got more surprising and hilarious by the minute.

It was a delight to see magicians have what looked like more creative reign over their alter ego persona’s and the talents / mannerisms of those entities. The entire show was lighthearted and was almost had a vaudeville show feel, as no one was exactly sure what was going to happen / who was going to appear on stage next. If the producers of that show ever read this then: PLEASE bring this show back every year! It was a festival highlight for me.