Monday, January 17, 2022



Circus of Illusion. 

Created and devised and directed by Michael Boyle. Canberra Theatre. Canberra Theatre Centre. Sunday January 16th at 2 p.m. and 7 p.m.

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins

There is more to magic than meets the eye or doesn’t as the case may be. The fact that illusionist Michael Boyd is able to bring his Circus of Illusion to the Canberra Theatre in the age of Covid is a feat of magic that has thwarted hosts of live performance over the past two years. Ringmaster Idris Stanbury may have had to work that little bit harder to warm up the masked Canberra audience but the local lad’s non assuming appeal, quirky humour and gentle coaxing soon had the audience primed for an evening of wonder, surprise and enter5tainment.

Michael Boyd  -  Illusionist
 The show bears the mark of its simple origins in an Adelaide Tent four years ago. It does not boast the flourish and fanfare of David Copperfield’s magical extravaganzas or the startling, gasping artistry of Cirque du Soleil. The show is instead a stylish display of the small company’s considerable talents. While the artists perform their magic, their acrobatic and juggling skills and their bewildering illusions the audience sits in child-like wonder.  How do three random people answer three random questions by Boyle that then appear written on paper locked in a box, suspended high above the stage? How does Tara Boom keep a dozen or so hula hoops swirling about her waist or gracefully juggle four umbrellas on her feet? How can Boyle’s assistant Jory be locked in a box one minute and then vanished the next. What magic helps Boyle to escape Houdini-like  the nightmare of being handcuffed and locked in a solid steel casket? Minds race in an attempt to uncover the secrets of Boyle’s ingenious illusion. 

Ringmaster  - Idris Stanbury
 Illusions are interspersed with graceful ballet routines from Pip and Tyrone, Boom’s dexterous handling of the hoops,  tattooed strongman Tro’s acrobatic routines and Stanbury’s banter , comedy and juggling routines to the beat of the I Want To Break Free soundtrack. It is all accompanied by the appropriate posturing and proud presentation.

There is an air of sobriety in the theatre, and I suspect that Covid still prompts a certain caution. The clapping is appreciative, the cheering spontaneous and the audience is definitely enjoying the night out. Stanbury and Boyle keep the energy alive and work hard to work the crowd. In less fraught times, I suspect that this show would have rocked the house. It could have buzzed along. 

For those who could have seen it all before, they haven’t. Every circus show needs a gimmick. In Circus of Illusion comedy and magic combine in a routine introduced by Siri and with Boyle confusing a bandana with a banana with hilarious results  . It is a clever twist to the usual routines.

Boyle and his company turn on a touch of Las Vegas in a colourful finale after the escapalogic highlight of Boyle’s parade of illusions. Dancers Pip and Jory complete with costume sparkle and feathers recall the glitz of showgirl glamour from Ziegfeld to Folies-Bergere. Circus of Illusion brings a serve of welcome entertainment to town, and we could all do with a dose of wonder, a touch of magic and the delight to dream.  Boyle learnt the art of simple magic at his grandpa’s knee when he was only eight. That and Circus of Illusion is enough to excite any child to try his hand at magic. And that’s no illusion.