As I walked into the Northcote Town Hall I was immediately transported through time. I felt as if I was standing in a little town’s plaza from the 1900s: people of all ages and sizes walked around the dimly lit room, playing chess, listening to jazz, or grabbing a bag of popcorn from the snack-bar before entering ‘Deceptology‘, the show that magician Nicholas J. Johnson promised would take our breath away.
Johnson is an honest con man. The Town Hall’s Studio 2 seemed small and plainly decorated on first instance (only a bookshelf with random objects, a white screen, and a brain in a jar set in a roughly 5 x 2m stage aided him through the show). But Johnson managed to fill the room with charm and marvel us with his act.
The show started with Clara (the brain in the jar) holding a dialogue with Johnson, where the premise that ‘your brain is constantly lying to you’ was set. With undeniable wit and humour, Johnson proceeded to show us how neuroscience can explain most of the magic tricks performed by our favourite magicians. But if you think that this was a boring list of tricks with their underlying explanation, you are thoroughly mistaken.
Through the following two hours, Johnson casually picked each and every one of the objects that lay in the bookshelf to unveil the secrets behind magic. Choosing lucky (or sometimes unlucky) volunteers for each act, Johnson never failed to grasp our attention by joking with our minds: He would suggest he would tell us how the following act worked, perform his tricks, effectively leave us mind-blown, draw our attention to the next object until later, casually reveal what he did in the first place.
The show wrapped up with a short shadow theatre-type function projected inside the silhouette of a man’s head (one of the lucky volunteers). Johnson played with shapes and figures that merged into one another, building a suitable allegory that visually portrayed how the perfect con man is never the one standing in a stage, but the one that lives inside of our heads.
Lourdes Zamanillo is a Mexican journalist who recently moved to Australia to study a Master’s in Sustainable Tourism. She loves words, travelling, and (above all) feeling surprised.
Nicholas J. Johnson’s ‘Deceptology’ runs 28 June–2 July 2016 at the Northcote Town Hall. Buy tickets now. The venue is accessible.
Read our guide to the Melbourne Magic Festival for more top acts.