Review: The Best of the Magic Fest

An evening of rogue and riveting magic

By Joana Simmons

The Melbourne Magic Festival is adding a twinkle in the eye and sparkle of delight to these cold July weeks. I was treated with tickets to The Best of the Magic Fest which is a chance for audiences to meet different guest magicians every night, a chance to laugh, gasp and wonder how they do it. Hosted by multi-award-winning magician, comedian and all-around swell guy Nicholas J. Johnson, the Friday night show presented its full house with three charismatic experts: Mr Marmalade, Tim Ellis and Lawrence Leung.

It’s hard to review or retell magic without giving anything away. Nothing really can replicate the wondrous feeling of delight that springs from the flourish of the magicians’ tricks. The types of magic used were close-up, sleight of hand, storytelling, telekinesis and telepathy. Host, Nicholas J. Johnson, warmed up the expectant crowd with his take on some old favorites. The thing that I loved most was how upfront and raw it was, in an intimate venue and with each magician’s spontaneous banter it was edgy and stripped back.

Johnson kept the pace rolling as he threw in a few tricks between each act, making us feel both at home and transported to this wonderful world. Magician number one, Mr Marmalade, was as smooth as a dram of Laphroaig 10 and more dapper than the man on the Hendricks bottle. He crafted a multidimensional performance with quirky physicality and sultry tones. At one point he dropped a few cards which made the expectant air of “is he going to get it” even more exciting.

Next, award winning magician and Artistic Director of MMF Tim Ellis, told a story with cards and class. Ellis included some delightful audience participation that was refined rather than naff, and boasted an overall polished presence in a luxe velvet blazer. The final magician, Lawrence Leung, was relaxed, lovable and brilliant. Telekinesis and telepathy usually makes me tip my head to the side skeptically, but he completely proved me wrong. I enjoyed it so much I forgot to take notes, all I wrote was “WOW”.

The staging was simple and suited the The Secret Room at Circus Oz. It emphasised the skill of the magicians who didn’t need any flashy lights, backdrop or water tanks to have their audience whooping and cheering. My only critique is that many of the tricks were performed on a table and from where I was sitting I couldn’t see everything, and the people around me also ducked their heads to catch a glimpse. There are countless moments in this show you really don’t want to miss.

The Best of the Magic Fest is a great night with variety, cheek and high-class magic that makes you put your hand to your face wondering what is going to happen next. What’s brilliant about magic is how it brings out the child in all of us, and this show does exactly that and wraps it in an enjoyable adult package. It’s a perfect introduction for the rest of the Melbourne Magic Festival’s July program.

The Melbourne Magic Festival runs 2 – 14 July in a range of exciting Melbourne venues. Take a look at their official website for program and ticket details. Tickets are also available by calling the box office on 1800 710 499.