Red curtains pour over a dimly lit stage; it's empty apart from an ancient phonograph lustrously centred, filling the room with its dark and enchanting recorded piano.
It's 1903, and were about to see some fucking magic.
The Ilusionists 1903 concluded a whopping 16 shows in 8 days at the beginning of the year, and the closing show that this shameless geek attended severed my innate scepticism and replaced it with a white hot passion for the art of illusion.
Truly, that’s what this show was; art. An homage to the qualia of perception, a unique ability to defy our knowledge of the impossible and betray our sensual experiences of reality into the most wonderful and limitless realm.
Now, before you like-minded sceptics pull the ‘lame card’ (I wouldn’t blame the uninitiated, either), lets be clear that despite the several glasses of merlot that were enjoyed, to all accounts of vision, I saw people levitate & vanish into thin air, I saw a woman severed in two flirt with on-stage audience members who verified her enclosure, I saw Houdini’s famous Chinese Water Torture Cell completed without any cover over the container – just a man shackled by impenetrable steel cuffs and locks within an 8 foot high 3 foot wide prison of water with a paperclip at the bottom.
Who’s lame now? Magic is fkn dope.
Here’s a rudimentary account of my favourite performance…
The clairvoyance act boasts Europeans Thommy Ten and Amèlie van Tass. They claim to have a unique bond to one another akin to the idea that when one twin is maimed, the other twin will likewise suffer from the same sensation without seeing or hearing about it.
To begin with, two volunteers from the audience are brought onto the stage. They’re random. Trust me on this one, to the degree I don’t want to be labelled a stalker I made sure these people were present to watch the show and were not tactical chess pieces for our clairvoyant’s to have falsely verify their act. The audience members check the pair for ear-pieces, search for hidden cameras and lastly examine a blind fold to make sure its free of sinister meddling
Amèlie van Tass is legitimately blindfolded, and seated centre stage on a gigantic wooden swing, her legs strung over the stage, her hands on her lap.
Thommy tells the audience to inspect their pockets and hold any belongings in the air. Meanwhile, Thommy is casually pacing through the stalls, his vintage suit jacket trailing behind him.
I know this sounds like a bull-shit act. I thought so to.
At first, Amèlie, not prompted at all, is able to speak up when Thommy grabs an object from the audience member. She’s able to determine that what Thommy’s holding is light, something worn, oop, they’re sun glasses. Whatever. I’m not impressed, there’s probably cameras all over the amphitheatre and they have a hidden way of communication, maybe through a clicker in her dress somewhere, right?
Thommy moves around the stalls, he’s gone through a few objects from different rows now; watches, rings, etc. He gets given a phone. He doesn’t turn it on, he holds it for only a second and Amèlie is still blindfolded on stage. She ponders momentarily then determines indeed, it’s a mobile telephone, and Thommy appears satisfied ready to hand back the device, Amèlie stops him. “Hold on” she says, “It’s a Samsung Galaxy S6, is that correct?”. You know its correct. Thommy again begins to hand the phone back only for Amèlie to interrupt once more “And its carrier is Vodaphone, is that right?”. The microphone is spun to the shocked owner of the phone who confirms Amèlies superstitious accuracy.
More random items were determined. One fella held up his sandal which Thommy graciously took. Maybe Amèlie was able to determine the sandal from its odour 8 rows away, but how she also knew it was a size 48 US is unfathomable.
Thommy’s almost back to the stage now but there’s one sizeable pensioner keen to make the most of his yearly night out, eagerly holding something up and Thommy obliges ol’ mate. It’s a pack of darts (thems are cigarettes to Aussies).
Now, that Amèlie knew Thommy was holding a pack of cigarettes is unsurprising at this point. We get it, she’s pretty good at this.
Its what else she does that is so fantastic.
She umms, and she ahhhs, and she has a stab that there are eleven cigarettes left in the pack. The pack is handed back to our old pensioner friend who opens the cigarettes and counts out eleven cigarettes in disbelief.
Thommy, with a grin on his face declares “but no! There are only 10 cigarettes left” as he takes one for himself and steps onto the stage. He is over five metres away from his tantalising partner Amèlie when he asks her what brand of cigarettes they are (it should be noted that in Australia there are plain-packaging laws, whereby all cigarette packs appear identical to one another), while he takes a match from his pocket, strikes it, and lights the cigarette, taking a drag from the death stick.
Attention is turned to Amèlie, who’s still sitting daintily on her swing, her hands still resting in her lap.
She answers Thommy, opening her mouth and correctly says Marlboro, and Thommy’s CIGARETTE SMOKE POURS OUT OF HER LUNGS and onto the stage.
WHAT THE ACTUAL FUCK.
The entire show is a string of bewilderment and fantasy, as eight world-class acts perform enough magic to warrant a mid-way intermission to catch your breath. A wonderful mirage of the Golden Age of magic, and an enthralling alternative to modern ways of entertainment.
Leaving the Illusionists 1903, I found myself questioning my own sanity and the reality around me. If that’s not worth the price of admission, then we may have different ideas on what qualifies a good night out.
Lewis Fisher is the kind of guy that’s better friends with your mum than you. And this time, its personal. Between digressing into playful quodlibets and a yearning ambition to integrate cheese onto every meal, you’ll find him in a dressing gown and slippers multi-screening away. Among all this Lewis finds time to pen down his inner monologue and provide an integral source of editing others at Lucifer's Monocle.