Theatre Review: Stuart Lightbody's Artifice


In his award-winning show Artifice Stuart Lightbody demonstrates that with a few iconic props and a handful of enthusiastic volunteers a skilled magician can create a delightful evening of wondrous, unforgettable moments for a group of complete strangers to share.

By: Mandy J Watson
Posted: 3 September 2019
Category: Reviews
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Stuart Lightbody in Artifice

Stuart Lightbody has brought his award winning 60-minute close-up magic show Artifice to Alexander Upstairs at the (new) Alexander Bar in Cape Town, South Africa, for a very short run (the show debuted last night and is on tonight and tomorrow night). This is the city's first chance to see this show, as well as fans' last chance to see him perform for a while (bar for private functions) as he will be spending quite a bit of time in South East Asia over the coming months.

Artifice is a pared down show that is designed to be easy to travel with, hence this is why Lightbody has performed it at the Fringe World Festival in Perth, Australia, where he won the Theatre Award in 2018, and the National Arts Festival in Makhanda (Grahamstown) in South Africa, where he won an Ovation Spirit Of The Fringe Award this year, but don't think for a minute that that means that there's any difference in the quality of the magic; what's different is the lack of elaborate set design, for example, that forms an integral part of his show Unique Wonders, and far fewer audio and lighting requirements, which is essential when you're dealing with a technical crew in a foreign location that doesn't know your work.

Stuart Lightbody is most known for his mastery of cards and the demonstration of seemingly impossible sleight-of-hand effects using them but in Artifice his selection of magic is much more varied and includes rings, coins, and a few mentalism effects. You'll be familiar with the props but the routines are all just slightly different to what you might have seen before due to his affable nature and compulsion to incorporate volunteers into every facet of his magic presentation, which helps to place the manifestation of wonder (sometimes literally) in their hands.

Stuart Lightbody poses with linking rings at Alexander Upstairs in Cape Town on 2 September 2019

In fact, during last night's opening performance, which had a lovely audience of laypeople who were there specifically to enjoy the magic, a young person in the front row unintentionally threw in some curveballs with responses and requests that were outside of what he was intending for specific routines. He just adapted what he was doing gracefully and as though that had been the intention all along.

The young person was delighted.

So was the rest of the audience.

This is one of the reasons why I like his work so much, because magic can be rigid, and it often needs to be, and therefore it's fascinating to see someone have the ability to be malleable and make it appear effortless. It comes with experience, and Lightbody has over 20 years of that, which is why the routines are always so outstanding - and mindblowing - and why he is a Cape Town favourite.

Stuart Lightbody performs at Alexander Upstairs in Cape Town on 2 September 2019

As always I am not discussing specifics of what we saw him perform last night, as that would ruin the surprise, although I will say that he has presented a few of the effects in previous shows but in some cases using different techniques (which, of course, will be more of interest to the magicians reading this review, rather than the public). I also saw some magic that I don't recall every seeing him perform before, or very rarely, so there really is something for everyone, whether a new fan or old.

Just know that you'll have a good time and, once again, Stuart Lightbody will renew your sense of wonder and delight. It is his purpose in life, manifested through his presentation of magic, and it's something we all need right now.

Stuart Lightbody poses with cards at Alexander Upstairs in Cape Town on 2 September 2019

Alexander Bar: Official Site, Facebook, Twitter

Mandy J Watson was a media guest of Stuart Lightbody and Alexander Bar.

Artifice, featuring Stuart Lightbody and directed by Tara Notcutt, is running at Alexander Upstairs at Alexander Bar, 76 Strand Street, Cape Town, from Monday, 2 September 2019 to Wednesday, 4 September 2019, at 19:00. Tickets are R140 at the door or R120 online but they may already be sold out.


Tags: Arts And Culture, Magic


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