Theatre Review: Greg Gelb's Refocused

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 28 September 2017
Category: Review Comments View Comments


In a show that forms part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival magician Greg Gelb uses his skills in a humorous way to remind his audiences of what's important in life.

Theatre Review: Greg Gelb's Refocused

Last year Cape Town based magician Greg Gelb brought a show called Blurred Lines to the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown, which he later re-performed at Alexander Bar. This year he follows on with a show titled Refocused. It's about remembering to focus on what's important in life, rather than be distracted by the noise and the disposable. In contrast to the intensity one might expect with such a title the show is laid back and jovial but Gelb takes moments to link what he's doing to the theme and the meaning is brought through in his effects.

Refocused is a mix of simple magic effects and some mentalism. Gelb is a very good close-up magician but his skills would be lost in the vastness of a large space, such as The Fringe Club, which is one of the venues in which his performance is taking place during the Cape Town Fringe Festival.

Theatre Review: Greg Gelb's Refocused

Consequently he has had to opt for material that can be seen from far away, which means bigger props and more focus on the visuals, which includes a thoughtful, and prominent, interactive set decoration that spans the stage and constantly alludes to what might be next, as well as reminds the audience of what has gone before. I would have liked to have seen him interact with it even more, however. I feel that some of its potential was not taken advantage of. Perhaps, if he chooses to revise the show and take it to a new venue or festival once the Cape Town Fringe Festival is finished, he will do this. Nevertheless it was a clever way of connecting what might otherwise have seemed to be a random assortment of effects into a progression that reaches its climax with the standout finale.

Greg Gelb's choice with this show is to focus on humour, with the magic almost being a companion to it, rather than the other way round. Many of the jokes, especially in the beginning, are filled with moderate subtext and occasionally gently made at the expense of an audience volunteer, which I am never in favour of - some people don't mind at all but others absorb it, not necessarily visibly, and take that away as a negative experience that colours their future perceptions of magic.

Theatre Review: Greg Gelb's Refocused

The audience on the opening night seemed to comprise a number of friends and fans of Gelb so, consequently, it was a happy, lighthearted room that enjoyed the performance. However I much preferred the show's other forms of humour and did laugh a lot in those moments.

I didn't sense the same passion for, and intense focus on, the material that Brendon Peel demonstrated in Hocus Pocus but that's likely because Peel is a particularly intense young man while Gelb is at his best when performing magic up close in front of just a handful of people where he is able to form a far more intimate performance relationship with the volunteers and the audience. In fact, this natural preference came through best when he was interacting one on one with audience members, both seated and on stage.

The magic was a mix of effects I've seen far too many times before, some bewildering crowd pleasers that confounded the audience, and a handful of mentalism effects that weren't too complicated (thankfully - overly complicated mentalism never seems to achieve the desired "wow" factor) and which played out in an intriguing manner.

Theatre Review: Greg Gelb's Refocused

It's the finale, however, that stands in my mind most memorably as it was completely unexpected. The lens is turned on Gelb but, in keeping in tone with the rest of the show, he makes fun of himself in a very silly manner that was lots of fun to watch and was a fair counterpoint to him having previously been naughty with some members of the audience. It's the high point of the show, as it should be, and I really enjoyed it. It's a reminder of the show's message to focus on what's important, which, in that moment, was not to take oneself too seriously.

I'm not sure that I can comply but I'll never be able to look at a picture of a boombox again without it springing to mind.

Mandy J Watson was a media guest of the Cape Town Fringe Festival.

Greg Gelb will be performing Refocused at Jolly Carp, 38 Sasmeer Road, Sasmeer Estate, Retreat, Cape Town, on 28 September at 18:00 and at The Fringe Club at the German Club Cape Town (Deutscher Verein Kapstadt), 6 Roodehek Terrace (off Hope Street), Cape Town, on 3 October at 20:00, all as part of the Cape Town Fringe Festival.

Cape Town Fringe Festival: Official Site, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter

Tags: #arts_and_culture, #cape_town, #magic

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