Theatre Review: Monday Night Magic Season 7, Cape Town
A new season of Monday Night Magic has debuted in Cape Town, once again hosted by the Cape Town Magic Club. This season is being held in the Artscape theatre complex and will be running until the end of November 2018.
Season 7 of the Cape Town Magic Club's Monday Night Magic events has opened in a new venue with a lineup that includes old favourites as well as some new faces. Monday Night Magic was launched nearly three years ago by magician Marcel Oudejans
and part of each season's intrigue has been the fascinating venue in which each one will be held.
Marcel Oudejans, who hosted on 1 October 2018, started the Cape Town Magic Club and the Monday Night Magic events in 2016
Most venues have been secret spots few have seen around the city but, starting with Season 6, the events expanded to more prominent locations that are easy for tourists to access. Fittingly (and finally!), the new venue for Season 7 is located in a corner of the Artscape theatre complex, which was recently revamped, on the upper level of the opera-house section near the bar, which is kept open for patrons of Monday Night Magic. The shows take place in a small, but comfortable, room that has a beautiful sunset view of the steps outside the complex and some of the refurbished buildings on the foreshore.
Last week, however, the eighth annual Desmond Tutu International Peace Lecture took over the entire main building so Monday Night Magic was moved to the Artscape Arena, which is a space usually used for more intimate productions, such as experimental theatre and shows by comedians. The Artscape Arena offers more seating, so the night's two shows were combined into one bumper one, and this unexpected venue proved to be an excellent fit for Monday Night Magic - and hopefully one it will be able to utilise more often in the future.
Above: Jesse Brooks performing in the Artscape Arena on 8 October 2018. His largely mentalism act featured a finale with a seemingly impossible outcome that astounded the audience.
Season 7 opened at the start of October and I have sat through all the performances of the past three weeks to get a feel for the new (intended) venue and the lineup, which includes magicians from all over the country, many of whom are graduates of The College Of Magic and/or members of the Cape Magicians Circle.
Monday Night Magic is difficult to review because each night is different due to the rotating lineup of magicians and the different roles they may perform (host or headliner act, for example). In fact, even within one night, during which there are usually two shows, each show can be different due to the energy and makeup of the audience and also because performers often like to mix it up a little so they don't always perform exactly the same routine.
Since I've been able to observe so many of Season 7's shows it's been interesting to note all these dynamics. Consequently it's difficult for me to recommend which night to go on, or even which performance on the night, as there are so many variables.
Above: Brendon Peel
hosted the show in the Artscape Arena ion 8 October 2018. The larger venue was better suited to his style of performing.
Mentalists Brendon Peel
and Bryan Miles, for example, have both performed during this season as the headliner on one night and a host on another. Mentalism is a form of magic that lends itself to a slower pace and I don't think that, for either of them, their nights as the headliner was their strongest work. Peel tends to go into his head quite a lot, which can reduce the pace significantly, and Miles, when given the most suitable format to work with, likes to send his audience on a journey that builds to a climactic end effect but this needs time.
As headliners they're constrained to a roughly 25- to 30-minute act (rather than, say, 45 to 60 minutes that they would have in a solo show) so they either have to pack quite a bit in, which doesn't suit mentalism, or leave the audience feeling as if they haven't seen enough, or that it was too slow. I found them both to be much better suited as hosts, as they were constrained into having to perform smaller, unconnected effects that kept the audience warm and engaged between the other acts on the bill. Both excelled at that.
Above: Andrew Klazinga (far right) performing one of his mentalism effects with a group of volunteers on 15 October 2018.
, who appeared as a featured performer this past Monday, also performs mentalism and had problems fitting the new routine he has been working on (I saw a preview of it a few weeks ago and really enjoyed it) into the allotted timeframe but that comes with experience. He will have another chance to take the best elements of that routine and perform them when he appears in Season 7 again next month.
Above: Greg Gelb was the headliner on 15 October 2018 and performed an entertaining set that mixed mentalism and magic.
In contrast magician Greg Gelb
, who was the headliner this past Monday, has put together a very good, and very memorable, roughly 30-minute act that suits the headliner slot perfectly. So far that set has been one of the highlights of the current season for me (a couple of slightly sexist jokes aside, one of which makes his wife the butt of the "humour"; however, he is not the only magician I would like to see stop dabbling in these sorts of jokes).
Above: Dion Wabanie, the winner of the stage competition in this year's Western Cape Junior Magician Championships, made his Monday Night Magic debut on 1 October 2018.
Another highlight for me was watching Dion Wabanie make his Monday Night Magic debut on the opening night. (It wasn't quite his professional debut as he performed at an arts festival earlier this year.) Wabanie received a spot in the lineup after winning the stage competition in the Western Cape Junior Magician Championships last month. Although he won the championships Wabanie is still perfecting the act, and had made some changes since the competition, but the Monday Night Magic audiences loved it and I hope to see him in future seasons having crafted it a little more.
Anele Dyasi, who won the close-up competition in the Western Cape Junior Magician Championships with his endearing "Anele The Banker" routine, has also been invited to perform in Season 7. Dyasi has previously appeared in the Monday Night Magic lineup and his upcoming performances on 19 November 2018 are ones I would suggest opting for (specifically the 19:00 show if you're bringing teenagers as the 21:00 show includes a burlesque act that is not suitable for young people (and some adults)).
Above: Mawonga Gayiya performed a very good magic routine involving cards and ropes on 1 October 2018. It was one of my favourite performances of Season 7 (so far).
Other performers who are still to come in the lineup whose work I particularly enjoy are Alexander May, Jamian Fortune, Jacques le Sueur, Asiphe Mnqika, and Andrew "Magic Man" Eland but I've never seen some of them perform during Monday Night Magic and therefore I don't know what to expect.
So what am I trying to say here, exactly? In essence, even when it comes to performers whose work I know quite well, I'm unable to anticipate how they are going to fare in a specific role during a Monday Night Magic performance (or, I won't be able to until I have watched a lot more of the shows). This, however, is really more my long-term - almost academic - observation of local magic. What does it mean for the layman?
Glendini (Glenn McMeeking), an escape artist, performed a number of escapes from handcuffs, ropes, and the shrew's fiddle
(pictured above) on 15 October 2018.
The answer is a good night out - for the most part. Similar to comedy festivals, the lineup is so broad that almost every performance type and style is represented across the run (although there is a lot of mentalism this season) so it's possible that you may pick a night with a performer whose work, favoured type of magic, or personality, doesn't match yours but that person will never be the only performer on the bill.
However each magician is a skilled performer with a lot of experience - even the Western Cape Junior Magician Championships winners have been honing their skills and aspects of their acts for years - so you can certainly expect to be amazed by good magic. Consequently, the members of the public who attended the shows I have observed in this season had a really good time.
So did I.
Above: Bryan Miles was the headliner act on 8 October 2018 in the Artscape Arena.
Mandy J Watson was a media guest at all the Monday Night Magic Season 7 performances.
Season 7 of Monday Night Magic opened on 1 October 2018 and will run, every Monday night, until 26 November 2018 with both a 19:00 and 21:00 show. Tickets cost between R140 and R200 through Quicket (excluding Quicket's R5 handling fee) and there are discounts for block bookings. Visit the Cape Town Magic Club's web site for the lineup and to find the direct links to the listings on Quicket.
Full disclosure: Mandy J Watson has previously written about the international escapologist Krendl for Magic.Africa, which is owned and operated by Cape Town Magic Club founder Marcel Oudejans.
Tags: Arts And Culture
, Cape Town