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.

MMF 2019 Review: Now You See Us

 “Now You See Us” is performed by three very talented female magicians: Lee Cohen, Nicola Gidley and Prue Spencer. Each are known individually for their magical talents but their talents combine in “Now You See Us”. The premise to this show is that female magicians have been in the shadows for too long (as merely ‘assistants’ etc) and that NOW is their time to shine…and shine this show does!

 Every moment of this show is enjoyable, from the intro video and combined routines, to the sections where Lee, Nicola and Prue have the chance to perform their own favourite routines. There are a number of special guests to look out for so keep your eyes peeled during this show! I don’t want to spoil too much, but I can tell you that “Now You See Us” is highly entertaining, enjoyable, and is a perfect show to share with your family. It’s more than just a magic show, as some of the magicians have skills in other areas (like juggling) which enhances this show to be more than the sum of its performers. Snappy and sassy tunes make the audience bop along while enjoying the fun magic and surprises occurring throughout – there’s literally never a dull moment in this show! If you’ve seen any of the magicians perform previously, then I encourage you to see them all in this show as it is clear they’ve all gone ‘above and beyond’ to create a spectacle for their audiences. It’s likely you’ll see something you’ve never seen before.

VERDICT: In “Now You See Us” Lee Cohen, Nicola Gidley and Prue Spencer prove that when their powers combine they create truly incredible and impressive magic. An enjoyable show that I wished didn’t have to end.

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

Tickets / info:

MMF 2019 Review: The Just Joshing Magic Show

Magician Josh Staley is well known for his family / adult magic shows focusing largely on his card magic, so I was keen to see his magic show for children called “The Just Joshing Magic Show”

There was a nice mix of magic themed music playing as audience members took their seats in the theatre (or on the floor mats for children wanting to be closer to the action). Josh Staley had a relaxed demeanour throughout the show, and had a strong rapport with all the children in the audience / his volunteers from the audience. In terms of what sort of magic to expect, Josh has a wide repertoire of magic to show and entertain his young audience with – wands go wayward, magical coins appear, and there’s magic with silks…which brings me to one of the best lines in the show from Josh (when addressing a young audience member) -“I’m not made of silks, young man!”. Waves of giggles and ‘oohs’ and ‘aahs’) were heard all throughout the show as Josh captured the attention of the audience with his magical talents. One of the highlights for me were the priceless looks of wonder and astonishment from his volunteers  – clearly Josh’s show will be one they remember for a long time. Another personal highlight was the ‘magician’s lunch’ scene which was very funny indeed. Josh’s finale involved many members of the audience and had everyone saying “WOW!”

Verdict: A highly enjoyable magic show for families with children 7 and under. A solid choice for a fun, relaxed magic show.

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

MMF 2019 Review: Simon Coronel: Things By Simon

Simon Coronel is one of the ‘homegrown heroes’ of the Melbourne Magic Festival (and the magic scene in Melbourne). Having grown up in Melbourne, Simon now lives and works in Hollywood USA and has appeared (and fooled the judges!) on “Penn and Teller: Fool Us” so I consider any of his magic shows to be unmissable.

I’d seen previous iterations of “Things By Simon” at past magic festivals, however I was keen to see the show again (for many reasons but mainly because I know Simon takes great pride in his art form and changes things around each time I see the show).  There are many aspects to enjoy about Simon’s magic and performance but I also admire the way he treats his audience members. There’s no dragooning or dragging people on stage in this show as Simon practices “consensual magic”. Simon also respects his audience’s needs- for there are people who regard magic as a puzzle that needs to be solved vs people (like me) who just want to revel in the mystery and surprise of the moment. I attended this show with a friend from the first category, and Simon ensured that he satisfied us both which was very entertaining!

In terms of the show itself, it has been refined over the years and I think this year is the best performance of “Things By Simon” that I have seen! If you haven’t seen Simon perform before, you simply must see his card magic and his poker chip routine. For those who have seen Simon Coronel perform, this show is to be seen for the strong momentum of miracles that leads into one of the most impossible finales I’ve ever seen! Minds were being blown all across the room during the show, with the audience basically making incoherent noises – such was the level of the incredible magic happening! The crowd was reveling and scoffing at the unbelievable moments unfolding on stage with increasing speed. I’m unable to recommend this show enough – JUST SEE IT!!!

VERDICT: Guaranteed amazing times to be had, simply cannot recommend this show enough! This show is best suited to adults.

Tickets / information:

MMF 2019 Review: Lu Chen: Live in Melbourne

Magician Lu Chen has a cult following in his home country of China, and his run of shows at the 2019 Melbourne Magic Festival is his first time performing in Australia. Suffice to say, his arrival has been the buzz of the second week of the festival. Opening night was a packed full house, co-ordinated exceptionally well by festival staff and volunteers given there were three different ticket types including VIPs to be seated in a short time frame.

I’d heard of Lu Chen before but had no idea of his speciality or what to expect from his show. Put simply, the audience was in for a an evening of sleek magic and powerful storytelling with focus on mentalism / mind reading. Many of Lu Chen’s routines required assistance from audience members, which delighted his many fans in the audience who were keen to assist. The inclusion of Australian animals in a guessing game is a nice nod to Australia. A personal highlight is a routine involving wine and some playing cards, which was highly surprising and interactive. Lu Chen’s show included many surprising moments, prompting lots of “oohs and aahs” from the audience. I enjoyed Lu Chen’s references to the psychology of belief during his show, however he kept those references fairly light so the audience didn’t get bogged down into too much detail. Much of his show was aimed at adults, however it is a show that families can enjoy together – and indeed I spied many children in the audience enjoying the show with their families.

The show concluded with a wonderful story time piece that I very much enjoyed. I left the theatre feeling very thoughtful and happy.

VERDICT: sleek magic and powerful storytelling combine to create a memorable magic show that will leave you amazed and surprised.

Note: Lu Chen’s run of shows in Melbourne have all sold out.