[Review:] THE MAGICIANS SHOWCASE, 12 May 2019, The London Improv Theatre, London.
This show is part of a chain of performances under the same name taking place monthly at The London Improv Theatre and hosted by Darren McQuade. It is worth noting, then, that this review does not speak of all performance; this review focuses on the performance of 12th May 2019. Magicians performing comprised: Luke O'Neill, Kash Magic, Sean Smith, Nathan Earl and Alex Kirk.
I will start by commenting on the showmanship of the magicians. All magicians took the route of comedic expression for their performances. If this was due to the nature of the show or to the magicians’ awareness of the type of performance offered by their competitors, I cannot be sure; I can be sure, however, that comedy was not the strong point of any of them. Whilst sexual innuendos are a surefire way for humour to land on its feet amongst spectators, they are also much too heavily relied upon when a performer has little comedic ability, and this was the case tonight. Humour must be carefully crafted; audience types must be qualified sharply; and the humour chosen must be coherent to the performer’s style, ability and mode of address.
With his little experience in stage magic, or so I am told, it comes as a surprise that Kash Magic should deliver such focused style, character and ability. Out of all the magicians, his was the most refined, cogent and clear in what he was delivering to us, costume and all, and it was obvious due to this brilliance why he should — and did — win. Though this does not mean that he should not work on his delivery. All magicians, him included, need to work on pacing and sharpness, testing their performance extensively before staging it. There were an extensive amount of times where the momentum fell flat and dry, dampening the night as a whole. All magicians have to be as aware as Kash Magic, if not more, of what they are delivering to the audience. Jokes, gags and simple tricks may make a magician, but they do not make a fruitful showman. One must find a way to stand out of the crowd with developed idiosyncrasies and style.
As for the tricks themselves, there was a sheer lack of originality. All tricks — again, apart from Kash Magic’s — composed only the fundaments of stage magic, however illusory and entertaining they still are today. This meant that any freshness had to originate from the showmanship of the magicians, which, as I have mentioned, was also lacking. It was often the case that items could be seen held tightly in the magician’s hands, though it is unfair to say that this was true of all tricks. In fact, the illusory aspect of the tricks was, for the most part, polished, well executed and clever.
It felt as though this show was aiming towards a classic sorcerer’s aesthetic of red velvet, candle lights and white linen-covered tables, but this fell short. Each table was covered by two small table cloths and topped with two tea-light candles and a playing card on a miniature easel. It is important to make sure that all components presented have a raison d’être. This little playing card was thus rendered rather pathetic and unnecessary. Whilst candlelight makes for a lovely atmosphere, the configuration of these tables was equally problematic. It made for a conspicuously clunky entrance for the audience who scrambled for an ‘unreserved’ table at which they could sit side-by-side with one another, and when nominees were summoned to the stage, it was visibly difficult for them to wade through the cluttered audience layout. I would also recommend sourcing tablecloths that fit the dining tables (if these are property of the venue, they could simply be swapped for the performance and placed back).
Especially with the venue in mind — which has the ability to completely block off outside light, met by its high, black and almost gothic ceiling, and its veiny walls — this is an aesthetic that this show could definitely realise. As a last note, and perhaps this is venue-related, but lamps (perhaps upon the tables) or some other source of house-lighting would be cleaner than a stagehand attending regularly to the thick curtains at the windows, meeting once again with the jumble of the audience seating.