Like many other forms of live entertainment planned for 2020, The Melbourne Magic Festival has had to be postponed until 2021. Not at all surprising in these times – I’m extremely lucky to have a stack of happy memories to reflect on from past years – however this time of year doesn’t feel the same without the festival’s charm and enjoyment. It feels like a bleak winter this year.
Not all is lost (especially for fans of magic) as the team behind the Melbourne Magic Festival, led by local magic superstar Tim Ellis, held an online version of their annual Gala Show. The performers donated their time and talents and the online gala raised money for the festival itself (for, even with an event postponement the bills and costs keep rolling in). Hosted by Tim Ellis himself and held on Zoom, ticket holders were asked to dress magically and keep their webcams on to enhance the level of enjoyment and keep magical enthusiasm going. It was great to see a mix of age groups tuning in, from people on their couches / sofas, to young adults with headphones on, to families with children all smiling and waving. There was a lovely spot of LIVE piano music pre show, performed by Andy Pobjoy at Piano Bar Geelong. It was a fun way to start the show, and many audience members could be seen bopping along, clapping or moving their hands in the air to the music. A sweet medley of tunes played on piano (accompanied by singing) had broad appeal for the audience (including some hits from Queen and also some Frank Sinatra favourites). This was a treat as not many have had a chance to travel beyond their own suburb (let alone across then city and then some!). It felt like a mini magical getaway.
The online show itself was a first for me – I mean, sure during the work day I have meetings over Zoom but I’ve never tuned in for entertainment. I was curious to see how the show was going to play out, with mixed segments of live and pre-recorded magic as well as the potential challenges asking for audience volunteers could bring during the show.
I have to admit that the online show was just about as enjoyable as a show in real life! I saw some of my friends in the audience and we exchange greetings in the chat area, which brought much joy to my socially starved soul. The magic (whether live or pre-recorded) still made me laugh, gasp and cheer as usual. Much of it was just as amazing as it would be live (especially the piece by Lawrence Leung which was brilliant!) Many local favourite magicians were in the lineup (including Dom Chambers, Anthony DeMasi and many many others). There were special appearances with greetings from overseas magicians (such as Max Maven, Boris Wild and Shawn Farquhar) – many of whom were past / planned International guests at The Melbourne Magic Festival – which was a nice touch. It made it seem like those International guests missed the festival too, but was also fantastic to see them introduce other performers. The gala included a performance by the divine Lucy Darling which was an indulgent treat as usual. There were far too many show highlights to mention here, however I very much enjoyed seeing some of my favourite performers (whether local or international) – even if the segments were pre-recorded I still smiled and waved as if they could see me in real time.
Another aspect I appreciated about the show was the short and sharp nature of the magic segments, with the performers getting right to the magic. It reminded me of a variety show, where the performers only have a few minutes to impress. I liked that as, going into the show, I was concerned that it would be a long stint online. These days, having a lot more screen time than I usually would means that I do get ‘screen tired’. It was definitely a different medium with which to show magic, however the magic was just as impactful. I enjoyed dressing up in a nice magic themed outfit for the show (as these days, I’m in casual clothes all the time). I miss getting dressed up to go out so that was a nice change of pace for the evening.
Like many other users of Zoom and other online platforms (whether social or business), online mediums aren’t without their perils…..Low user bandwidth can be a devil, especially during a live segment that required audience participation. There was a lot of speech / vision lag during that segment, so I don’t feel like I caught much of that performance. There were also a couple of points where the same pre-recorded segment was played again (and then halted)- however that prompted some comedy from the show host Tim Ellis, which was amusing. I also had a technology lag (my issue) with the platform closing, and I then couldn’t get back into the show as the participant number had reached its max. Frustrating, but I eventually got back into the show and stayed in (thankfully!) Those that regularly use Zoom or other platforms are well versed in the pitfalls of such systems, and no user is really immune to those. None impacted on the enjoyment factor or enthusiasm of the audience members during the show.
The Melbourne Magic Festival Online Magic Gala was a fun show, and a nice virtual outing to a festival I’m missing very much this year. It was nice getting dressed up and virtually chatting to friends I’d normally see during the festival as well as watching some of my favourite magical performers. I can only hope that there will be more virtual magic shows to partake in, especially during these socially distant times when we’re all unsure when live performances will return to Melbourne. Thank you to everyone at The Melbourne Magic Festival for organising this special online event.
For more information / news of future performances:
The Melbourne Magic Festival: https://melbournemagicfestival.com/
Piano Bar Geelong: https://www.pianobar.com.au/geelong