Theatre Review: Brendon Peel's The Trickster
Brendon Peel's new mentalism and magic show challenges audience members to interrogate what they are seeing and determine for themselves what is and isn't real - because, this time, the trick is that not everything is a trick.
Mentalist Brendon Peel has brought his solo show The Trickster
to Cape Town. The show, which is so named because what he presents ranges from mental trickery to moments that are actually real and there is no magic, but you're in invited to figure out which is which, aptly opened on 1 April at Alexander Upstairs at the Alexander Bar.
Throughout the show Peel uses simple props - and sometimes no props at all - to perform a mix of mentalism and magic while challenging the audience members to determine for themselves where the truth might lie, which builds to a finale that left some audience members utterly amazed at how it came to be.
Peel told me after the show that it is his favourite show to perform and that certainly comes across at how at ease he seems to feel when he's on stage. I don't feel that it's his strongest show - yet - but I think it has the potential to be with some tightening up as it certainly is the best finale I've seen him perform.
There are two areas that I feel need work. One is particular to Peel's performance style, and that is his tendency, which I've mentioned before
, to go into his head and, essentially, waffle because he processes his thoughts by talking and this also resulted in a Rubik's Cube sequence that he performed being a little too long. Additionally, often audience members kick up data that he finds anomalous and he can't help but interrogate it, which distracts him from what he is supposed to be doing. While the style works quite well for corporate magic and table hopping where you have to keep distracted people very engaged, he needs to tighten it up and let the performance flow be a bit more slick for a stage or theatre presentation.
The other is a trap that many magicians fall into, which is a lack of preparation of elements beyond perfecting the magic. (As with Andrew Klazinga's recent show
, I cannot fault any of the magic that Peel performs in The Trickster
. It's skilled, it has been well practiced, and most of it is professionally presented. It's the staging and tiny other elements that need refining.)
Peel was fresh off a plane from Durban, where he had been performing two shows (this was one of them), as well as hosting workshops for young people, and unfortunately this meant that he wasn't prepped for the Alexander Upstairs space and didn't do a runthrough before the opening night, which I attended, and this resulted in a few small problems.
As examples, the pens weren't working (actually they were working but they were ballpoints and they couldn't write on the slightly glossy paper that was supplied on the first night); Peel's whiteboard kept catching the stage lights as he moved around and consequently it was reflecting the light into the audience; and he hadn't planned disposal methods for props he was finished using, which is a staging error, so he would hesitate while he looked for somewhere to dump them out of sight on a stage that was very sparsely set up as he didn't need much on hand to perform the show.
These are all minor issues (and versions of problems that many magicians encounter if they haven't been thorough ahead of time), and I understand that they have already been fixed, but they make a difference to the perceived quality level of the overall show and are issues that should be ironed out with a runthrough, which is why they are so important, or, ideally, the help of a director.
It detracts, but if the magic is strong enough it doesn't destroy, and the finale, as I mentioned, was really good and brought the show together strongly while demonstrating how The Trickster
has been working towards it all along. It was split into two parts and the first half was actually stronger than the second - in fact it was strong enough to stand alone and would be more impactful that way so I wouldn't be surprised if this is one of the changes Peel makes as he adjusts and updates the show for festivals and appearances later in the year. (Magic is always a work in progress and a show is never really perfected, the incremental improvements just become smaller the more refined a show becomes over time.)
Did the show live up to its challenge? If the audience reactions I witnessed were anything to go by I'd say that many audience members did indeed leave contemplating what was trickery and what was real. Certainly, three days later I'm still not sure about some truths and some fiction - and that's quite annoying (in the best way).
The Trickster: Alexander Bar/Booking Info
Brendon Peel: Official Site
Alexander Bar: Official Site
Mandy J Watson was a media guest of Alexander Upstairs.
The Trickster is running every evening at 19:00 until Saturday, 6 April 2019, at Alexander Upstairs at Alexander Bar in Cape Town. Tickets are R100 online or R110 at the door.
The Trickster will then, with adjustments, be moving to the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (Grahamstown) in June/July 2019.
Tags: Arts And Culture
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