Friday, November 24, 2023

Metaverse of Magic


Metaverse of Magic.  JONES Theatrical Group, presented by Sydney Coliseum Theatre, Canberra Theatre and Queensland Performing Arts Centre, at Canberra Theatre November 23 – December 3, 2023.

Reviewed by Frank McKone
Opening Night, Canberra, 23 November

Co-Creator & Director: Siobhan Ginty; Co-Creator & Producer: Suzanne Jones
Co-Creator & Associate Director: Del Wynegar

Interactive Game Design: ZEBRAR – Simone Clow & George Kacevski
Technical Direction & Design: Nick Eltis (TechNick)
Production Design: Patrick Larsen (Studio Bound)
Lighting & Video Design: Paul Collison (Eleven Design)
Composition: Adam Gubman (Moonwalk Audio)
Magic Design/Consultant: Adam Mada (Magic Inc)
Choreography: Lauren Elton; Additional Script: Eddie Perfect
Sound Design: Julian Spink; Production Management: L’Argent Wilson

Character Roles:
On stage: LenoxxAsh Hodgkinson aka Ash Magic
On screen: DIGIErin Bruce

Charli Ashby (Australia); HARA (Japan); Horret Wu (Taiwan)
Jarred Fell (Aotearoa New Zealand); Sabine Van Diemen (Netherlands)


Bronte Carrington; Damon Wilson; Max Simmons; Mei Yamada; Tim Mason

Ash Hodgkinson as Lenoxx
on his way to the Inner Realm

The magic of theatre is that it is nothing but illusion.

The Metaverse of Magic, an “Interactive Magic Spectacular”, is theatre about illusion.

The magic performed on stage is real, yet the drama – in the form of a four-dimensional participatory computer game with a happy ending – is just an illusion.

With the central character “i-Gen magician” Lenoxx and the “all-knowing Game Master” DIGI - via wi-fi on their smartphones - members of the audience “embark on a thrilling quest to reveal the secrets of the four masters of illusion and strive to gain access to the prestigious Inner Realm.”  They begin at “Legacy”  level (magic as it was in the days of Houdini, when I was young), pass through “Creative” levels and at last achieve “Courage” – the happy ending.

But not everyone is a winner, including oldies like me who forgot to take their phone!

Sabine Van Dieman, HARA, Charli Ashby, Horret Wu
Masters of Magic


Technically amazing, with magicians who are skilful and therefore as surprising and mysterious as they should be, the show is the ultimate crowd-pleaser.  Jarred Fell’s pickpocketing was the highlight for me.  However hard you looked, you just couldn’t see him do it.  He would get away with never being proved guilty beyond reasonable doubt.  But I did notice the only slip out of illusion in the whole show, when Sabine’s whip failed to extinguish the last of the four lighted candles.  But I’m sure that won’t happen again.  Leaving Lenoxx with just the right number of petals, left on the rose he held in his teeth while she whupped from metres away, was a winner.

The use of multiple screens, scrims and hologram effects on such a scale certainly is engaging, even while I watched people near me focussed on tapping incomprehensible details on their phone screens to gain points in the game, but at the end of the day I wondered if this is no more than bread and circusses for the modern generation.

DIGI set up moments of success, points where Lenoxx and the players had not yet got there, pats on the back for the leaders at each of the levels, and praise be to everyone at the final countdown.  

But after all, "Metaverse" – meaning Beyond Life Gaming – is a steal from Mark Zuckerberg, whose influence on society is unfortunately not an illusion.  The history of the origin of Facebook for his male student mates to judge women pejoratively, and the extension of this ‘game’ into so-called ‘social’ media across the internet has now reached the point democracies are twisting and squirming towards new forms of autocracy.

The Metaverse of Magic crowd may want to believe in the happy ending, but the reality – which the best theatre helps us understand – is that we are going to need much more than Level Four Courage to survive the next few decades.

Enjoy the magic and the technology, but beware the illusion that laughter is all we need.  

And, to be honest, from the real people on stage, and even from the more remote DIGI, there was respect and in that sense, love was there, made clear especially in Jarred Fell’s working with and thanks to the youngster and adults who went up on stage.

Jarred Fell
Master of Ceremonies