Theatre Preview: 3 Funny Guys & A Pack Of Cards
Three members of the Cape Town Magic Club - Marcel Oudejans, Greg Gelb, and Andrew "Magic Man" Eland - have put together a show that features ensemble pieces, as well as the performers centre stage with some of their best solo material, but it's still a work in progress. Here's why.
In Cape Town it's very rare to see professional magicians perform together even though the city has so many of them. Most might be on the same lineup for a show, such as Cape Town Magic Club's Monday Night Magic events
, or festival, such as the Cape Town Fringe Festival
, but they each present a solo performance and don't really interact with each other on stage. This makes 3 Funny Guys & A Pack Of Cards
an intriguing prospect as part of the intention of the show is to give the performers opportunities to work together.
The show features Marcel Oudejans, Greg Gelb, and Andrew "Magic Man" Eland who are all strong solo performers with very different styles of magic. I wouldn't describe them all as comedy magicians - Greg Gelb is most so; the other two would likely argue with me that I'm wrong about them - but there is humour within their routines and Oudejans, in particular, has picked some of his most lighthearted material to present. Their styles of humour are all very different, however, so I was curious to see how it would all mesh when they were on stage together.
In 3 Funny Guys & A Pack Of Cards
each performer gets a space to perform some of his strongest material by himself - some of which you may have seen if you attended the recent run
of Monday Night Magic - and then in between these segments the three magicians present some sort of effect together in a group routine.
The solo performances were very good and very professional. As is usually the case I'm not going to go into any depth regarding what they performed, so as not to ruin the experience for those who have yet to see the show, but I can describe a few highlights.
Oudejans performed one of my favourite of his routines, which involves a story of him performing magic as a young child (I've seen this routine many, many times and I don't get bored watching it) as well as a very 21st century routine that uses technology that many of us are familiar with. He's been tweaking this - I've seen variations on the overall routine in the past few months - but I still don't think it's quite there.
Greg Gelb performed some mentalism effects using books as well as a routine with the show's eponymous pack of cards, which all three performers used in their routines.
Magic Man performed his coin and cards routine - or, technically, it's a lot of very small routines that he strings together seamlessly and it includes one of my all time favourite moments of misdirection by a magician. He also made quick balloon animal for a young audience member. (I suspect that his balloon routine changes depending on how much time he has and who he intends giving the sculpture to.)
These were all solid, skilled performances because they have been perfected over, in some cases, many years. The problems in the show lie in the transitions between the segments and the group performances, which aren't yet working smoothly like the solo routines do.
Part of what I didn't like about the transitions was how the performers constantly reintroduced each other to segue into the next segment but when I asked about it after the show I was told that this is done intentionally as a cue to the sound and lighting operator who, otherwise, may not know when to make adjustments. The operators come with the venues and therefore don't necessarily know the material being presented on stage; some are very good and don't need this type of overt cue, while others are not and it's the only way to ensure a smooth technical transition.
Unfortunately this method is jarring for the audience but there's no solution to the problem for the moment, bar the operator knowing the show inside and out.
One of the main issues the magicians need to work on is to figure out how to bring forth a sense of camaraderie on stage within their ensemble pieces, which currently feel a little awkward. There is nothing wrong with the magic but they don't look as if they are comfortable together. Part of this is that they haven't yet quite figured out all the blocking and movement so that it flows smoothly and doesn't disrupt the pace. However also seeing them look as if they are having fun will make a big difference to how the audience perceives the performances.
After the show I sat down with the performers to talk about where it is, what I experienced in watching it, where they would like it to be, and what their plans are for the future. Something that I immediately noticed, which I knew anyway, is that in real life they are all genuinely good friends - their camaraderie away from the stage is very palpable and infectious.
What they need to do now is figure out how to get that energy happening during the show.
The staging problems are something that a director would be very good at providing guidance for, and they told me that have been considering getting one on board to iron out some of the problems, but the person they particularly have in mind is not available at the moment. A director would also be able to help with the flow of the entire show and offer a layman's perspective as to which magic routines are working strongly and which are not really connecting with audiences. (I have some ideas around this - and have provided some feedback - but I'm not a representative audience sample.)
They also talked about how the show is still a work in progress, which is the main reason why I decided to write this as a preview, rather than a review. It was quite clear as I watched the performance that this is the case and, knowing what they are capable of, I want to give them a bit more time to refine the show into something amazing. Right now it has some wonderful moments but it's not strong as a singular piece.
Having said that, the magic is still very good - it's not a waste of money to go and see this show - but I know the production can be better, which is why I want to be able to watch it again, once it has settled into its final form, and write a review based on that. It will also be interesting to compare it to this preview and see the decisions that have been made and how the show has evolved.
There have been five performances of 3 Funny Guys & A Pack Of Cards
so far, at two venues in Cape Town and one in Strand, and I attended one of the shows at Alexander Upstairs at The Alexander Bar last week. The show will be moving to other venues around the country later this year, and is likely to pop up in Cape Town again too. Some of the magic is very, very good and I look forward to seeing the entire show rise to that level as well.
Mandy J Watson was a media guest of Alexander Upstairs and Marcel Oudejans. Keep an eye on Magic.Africa's events calendar for notifications of future performances of
3 Funny Guys & A Pack Of Cards.
Tags: Arts And Culture
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