Adelaide Festival Theatre, 15/1/2015
In The Wanderings of a Spiritualist (c. 1921), Sir Arthur Conan Doyle has this to say: “There is an excellent clairvoyante in Paris, Madame Blifaud, and I look forward, at some later date, to a personal proof of her powers, though if it fails I shall not be so absurd as to imagine that that disproves them. The particular case which came immediately under my notice was that of a mother whose son had been killed from an aeroplane, in the war. She had no details of his death.”
On asking Madame B., the latter replied, “Yes, he is here, and gives me a vision of his fall. As a proof that it is really he, he depicts the scene, which was amid songs, flags and music.” As this corresponded with no episode of the war, the mother was discouraged and incredulous. Within a short time, however, she received a message from a young officer who had been with her son when the accident occurred. It was on the Armistice day, at Salonica. The young fellow had flown just above the flags, one of the flags got entangled with his rudder, and the end was disaster. But bands, songs and flags all justified the clairvoyante.“
It is such a mindset of the Edwardian (and Victorian, and Georgian) age to which this band of professional showfolk wishes us to return, when science and technology was the province of the few and people, having stopped believing in God, started believing in anything. In order to shill us into their magic (as opposed to their tricks), every trick in the book is used – a dazzling array of lighting, set, photography, music, misdirection and special effects. If we are not persuaded, we are ultimately grateful for the sheer artistry. Rick Thomas did the vanishing acts and levitation; Jonathan Goodwin lay on a nail and wriggled out of a strait jacket, whilst on fire (homage to Houdini); Jinger Leigh fired a rifle shot that Mark Kalin caught in his mouth; Armando Lucero did some great hocus-pocus with coins and cards; Charlie Frye did some impressive (though not wholely successful) juggling and Thommy Ten and Amelie van Tass did the old ‘what has he got in his pocket?’ routine. Whether you believe in magic or not (and several adults were transfixed along with the kids in the crowd), the technical artifice and entertainment value can’t be faulted, despite the cirque du soleil- and-water script and conceit of the early 20C music hall effect.