Northcote Town Hall has been transformed into a hub of shady-looking characters, a disproportionate number of them brandishing decks of cards. The smell of popcorn wafted through the air, and there was even a free show going on while we waited for our session with Max Maven.
Max doesn't look shady. He looks decidedly wicked, very much like Doctor Who's early nemesis, The Master. But nobody at a magic show with chairs on the stage is likely to worry about that. They are too occupied with wondering who will be extracted from the audience to fill those seats. One warning: Max doesn't just choose from the front row.
The show is a mixture of magic and mentalism. Max seems to be equally at home playing with cards or playing with our minds. He's been doing it for a long time and he does it well. His humorous patter, with references to ‘remedial mind reading' if he gets something wrong just makes the show even more entertaining.
At the start, when Max asked for a deck of cards from the audience and one was supplied by another magician, you had to wonder if it was a setup. With other tricks, it was hard to see how it would matter. Once he had coins taped over his eyes and a blindfold over that, he shouldn't have been able to tell us about things he hadn't seen, but he did. One of the chosen audience members for his last trick was Jennifer, a friend of The Plus Ones, so I'm fairly sure she wasn't a plant!
For a night that will amaze you, grab a ticket to see a world-famous mentalist while he's in Melbourne.
Craig Macbride has visited a magician's workshop, but he still doesn't know how to saw someone in half–safely, anyway.
Read our guide to the Melbourne Magic Festival for more top acts.