[2013073] Stuperstition

[2013073] Stuperstition

Stuart Lightbody @ Holden Street Theatres – The Studio

5:00pm, Fri 1 Mar 2013

I feel like I’ve seen a lot more magic performers in the last couple of years, and whilst I’ve not got to the stage where I can recognise how we – the audience – are being fooled, I’ve become… well, a little blasé about the usual tricks. Weary, even.

So why did I find myself at yet another magic show, then? Because I was on the hunt for something different, something new… something vital. And, after a slightly stiff opening, Stuart Lightbody warmed the small and sceptical crowd with smooth banter and a likeable personality; he trotted out a few well-worn tricks and I sighed a little inside. Oh dear, I thought: more of the same.

But then he demonstrated how the tricks were done.

Hmmm, I thought as I sat up straighter, that is indeed different.

And that’s Lightbody’s hook: he mixes his subversive magic with overt explanations, and attacks the unscientific and paranormal with a rational mind. He cracks jokes about astrology before cold-reading an astonished audience member, using just her zodiac designation; he talks about the law of large numbers whilst tearing homeopathy apart and overdosing on sleeping pills; and there’s a fantastically funny piece where he makes balls of tissue disappear from in front of the increasingly incredulous audience member parked onstage. Those in the crowd were treated to a demonstration of just how easy it is to distract a mark as Lightbody casually tossed the tissue behind him, a colourfully stark demonstration within the inky blackness of The Studio.

But then there’s the flat-out unexplainable: the swallowed needles, threaded onto a piece of cotton – surely an exercise in sleight-of-hand. Card visualisations from afar – surely marked cards? Or reflections? More cold readings of people’s faces – and I’m completely lost. I have no idea how he’s performing some of his psychological tricks, and his assurances that there’s a rational explanation for this witchcraft fail to convince.

Most of all, however, Lightbody carries the show with a refreshingly approachable personality: well-spoken in a charming accent that’s more British than South African, his affable nature is immediately endearing. That he feigns to show you how his tricks are performed is a potent hook, and his purported skepticism is just icing on the cake; but he’s also a bloody good magician, and these ingredients all combine to create a compelling performance.

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