Sunday, December 7, 2008

An update on the history of magic

James Galea bounds out onto the stage of the Sydney Theatre after the screen behind him has run what amounts to an ad for his brilliance. We shall see. One of the endorsements was from one of the tastemakers on The Footy Show. He soon has the audience involved via a trick where everyone has to clasp their hands together and then get their thumbs pointing back upright the way he demonstrates. Nobody knows how. Then he’s prowling along the front row asking for thoughts as to what a magic show might contain. He asks a guy in the middle of the front row to hold a post parcel box on his knees. Finally we get ‘rabbits’ and he launches a rant that there wont be any in his act. His show is called "I Hate Rabbits" and a rabbit with a red line through it is part of the back projection. He’s still prowling, asking people would they like to double their money and he hits on an audience member who says he has a $50 bill in his pocket.

It’s moi!

I’m up on stage and James gets me to write my name with a big felt pen and put a secret sign on the note. Suddenly he folds it and folds it and folds it and then it’s gone. He produces something and unfolds it. A $5 bill. He takes my watch off me and drops it into a bag which has two slits. Suddenly he flaps the bag and the watch is gone and I’m asked to take my seat. No point in arguing.

James is a card prestidigitator without peer. He dazzles us with tricks involving a card which keeps returning from impossible places, especially his back pocket. The tricks are so delicate that most of the audience have to watch them on the big screen behind him. He plays a pea and thimble game with amazing dexterity. If you counter-intuit you can win on your guesses but the sleight of hand is remarkable. He brings up another audience member and guesses a word she has chosen from three books he offered her and he brings up another to do an elaborate trick with an upside down bottle inside a tube. This audience dummy takes so long to follow instructions the impact is lost.

Then it’s back to me. I’m again on stage as he stands in front of stand containing a towel and an orange. I suspect nothing and he slices open the orange to produce my signed $50 bill, dripping with juice. He wipes it down with the towel and throws the towel away. I was going to borrow it to mop sweat from my brow but he beat me to the punch. No one wants scene stealers. I then have to retrieve the box from the lap of the punter in the first row. He cuts the sticky tape off the box and produces another box. I’m invited to remove the bow and the wrapping paper. Inside the box is a brown wooden box and inside that box is a can of Heinz tomato puree. He opens the can with a can opener and out pops my watch. Or so I and the audience believe. Its high fives all round between us and he whispers “thanks mate, you were good”. Much better than the time on the boat on the river in Shanghai, I think.

He makes a woman’s wedding ring disappear and turn up on his own key chain buried deep in his pocket. Finally, there’s time for another incredibly elaborate card trick which involves him memorising the entire order of the pack and then some, the pack then being cut several times by strangers.

Then it’s over. The exhilaration of the hour long show is extraordinary. James high fives his assistant as he exits the stage. He’s happy and so were we.

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