Sunday, December 9, 2018


THE ILLUSIONISTS – DIRECT FROM BROADWAY. Executive and Creative Producer. Simon Painter. Executive Producers. Tim Lawson. Andrew Spencer. Alexandra Hirst. Directed by Neil Dorward. Composer and Musical director Evan Jolly. Lighting Designer. Paul Smith. Costume designer. Angela Aaron. Canberra Theatre.  December 6-16 2018. Bookings 62752700

Reviewed by Peter Wilkins


If seeing is believing, then how does one explain a young girl’s wide-eyed look of astonished disbelief as The Inventor (Kevin James) turns a floating paper rose into a real long-stemmed bright red rose before the young girl’s very eyes. Trickery or talent that defies belief? Is it smoke and mirrors or the strange workings of our deceived minds that can make The Mentalist (Chris Cox) read the mind of an utter stranger with such uncanny accuracy and turbo charged delight at his success? Or where do cards materialize in the astonishing sleight of hand of The Manipulator (An Ha Lim)? If cameras do not lie on close up, how can he transform the familiar images on a pack of cards into images of the various Illusionists? What powerful sorcery does The Conjuress (Jinger Leigh) possess  to make a glowing ball suspend and move in mid-air, or what magic does The Showman (Mark Kalin) employ to bring The Conjuress to life within a boxed-in room, surveyed for evidence of illusion by six random members of the audience?  Magic is in the air and illusion is its weaponry. More perilous is the spectacular cross bow, fiery act of The Warrior (Robyn Sharpe), almost as breathtaking as The Daredevil (Jonathan Goodwin’s heart-stopping escape from a strait jacket while doused in fuel and on fire. Keeping the audience entertained with camp banter and flame extinguishing fire eating danger is The Trickster (Jeff Hobson), who completes this jaw dropping band of mind blowing illusionists.
The Daredevil. Photo Mark Turner
Young and old alike will marvel at the sheer spectacle and phenomenal skill of their artistry, displayed with the audacious, mischievous showmanship of the performers. Be amazed! Be very amazed! Trickery and illusion is an art forged in the secret chamber of constant practice.  As one of the company warns: “Children don’t try this at home.”  The age old secrets, freshly minted for our age of technical wizardry still hold the wonder of the years when Harry Houdini invented his deadly art of escapology. Nail-biting, edge of the seat anxiety takes its breathless grip at the feats of danger, while relief accompanies the bewildering art of mind reading or the Trickster’s comical banter. Some of the acts may seem familiar, though no less puzzling, while new acts, slick as oil upon the watery surface or dazzling as glittering quartzite in the sun transport audiences beyond the theatre to a magical land of bewildering wonderment.
The Illusionists: Direct From Broadway serves up a feast of tricks and magical treats to satisfy every appetite for the incomprehensible and the awesome.  Unforgettable and tantalizingly perplexing, this is a show for the whole family and an entertainment not to be missed!

The Inventor. Photo: Mark Turner