The Confidence Artist promises to help us discover such skills as the secret of telling a good lie and how to cheat at cards without getting caught. In typical magician style, Nicholas J. Johnson doesn't really teach us those things. He does, however, teach us how amazingly good he is at them.
It's a traditional ploy with magicians: Lead the audience down the mental rabbit hole, show us how a trick might work, then layer another trick on top of it. We end up more befuddled and incredulous than we were before. Johnson can tell us to concentrate and not fall for his misdirection, yet it works anyhow.
The shtick works so well because our teacher is amazingly likeable. While I can easily imagine him running his shell game on a street corner and raking in big money, he also blurs the lines between truth and fiction as seamlessly as he second-deals cards. He chats to the audience as though we are all old friends and then tricks us over and over again.
(Don't worry about what to do if you turn up early, either. There are often magicians roving about the Melbourne Magic Festival lobby doing tricks. Daz Buckley kept me entertained while I was waiting for this show.)
Nicholas J. Johnson is the meta con artist. He doesn't teach us to avoid a con, just to never trust a friendly magician. But while you shouldn't trust him, you should go and see his show.
Craig Macbride has visited a magician's workshop, but he still doesn't know how to saw someone in half – safely, anyway.
The Confidence Artist runs 4-8 July 2017, 8pm at the Northcote Town Hall.
The venue is accessible.
Read our guide to the top acts at the Melbourne Magic Festival (3-15 July 2017).