The Melbourne Magic Festival Close Up Gala Show was massive, with two performances occurring simultaneously on the two main theatres of the venue.
Nicholas J Johnson opened proceedings for those of us in Studio 2 by encouraging us to clap and yell louder than the audience in Studio 1. That was a clever move, really tapping into the competitiveness of some of the audience. With the energy levels up, it was on with the show.
The first half featured Nick Kay, Magic Rob, Enrico D’flea & Mr Fluffy, Pierre Ulric, Peter Nguyen, Alex de la Rambelje, Jo Clyne, John Fung and Simon Coronel. One of the features of such a variety show is the range of items which are transported or transformed, with some performers using the standard items of the trade, such as coins and cards, while others injected their own quirky style by using forks from Daiso or “fleas”.
The second half was introduced by Tim Ellis, followed by Dom Chambers, Raymond Truong, Carisa Hendrix, Anthony DeMasi & Kevin, Josh Staley, Cath Jamison and, last but not least, Lawrence Leung. All kept us well entertained, but a few stood out: Josh did a long and impressive routine correctly divining eight randomly chosen cards, assisted by ever-smiling Rosie, one of the youngest members of the audience. Anthony’s act was special because his assistant, Kevin, was a gorgeous white bunny who sat patiently in his hat, despite the raucous crowd.
However, the most memorable of all was Carisa, as her alter-ego and expert on debauchery, Lucy Darling. Not only was her own innuendo-laden performance a riot, but she contributed to a later act. After a beach ball — intended to be thrown around to randomly choose audience members — reportedly had burst, Lucy appeared from behind the curtain with a life-sized blow-up female doll. I originally thought the prohibition on photography was so as not to give away the magicians’ tricks, but maybe it was just so that there would be no visual record to haunt the kiddies in the audience?
It’s not often you get to see a line-up like this. The acts encompassed a great range of talent, both local and from overseas, with styles varying from polished traditional magic to the weird and the wonderful to the downright silly. The Close Up Gala Show was fantastic entertainment. One of the best shows I’ve seen this year.
Despite this being the time of year when Melburnians are inclined to spend their evenings indoors and complain about the weather, Craig Macbride believes that the Melbourne Magic Festival is one of the better excuses to brave the cold.
Melbourne Magic Festival Close Up Gala Show ran on 10 July at the Northcote Town Hall. No doubt it will return in 2018. You can catch some of the participants in their own shows this year too.
The venue is accessible.