Time Out Sydney

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The boy-band of the magic world bring a spectacle of magic and illusion to Parramatta

A kind of magic supergroup assembled by Australian James Galea, Band of Magicians pitch themselves not as some mystical collective but instead a bunch of ordinary dudes who dabble in the extraordinary, offering a loose, approachable take on an often dated-seeming and derided (Gob Bluth anyone?) art form.
With jeans and leather jackets in place of capes, an air of looseness and self-deprecation instead of aloofness, and even a high-powered update on the ropy old woman-sawed-in-half standard, they had this opening night audience aflame with a rare, delicious emotion: complete glee at being deceived.
If they’re the boy band of magic, as is sometimes said, then Justin Flom is the heart-throb of the group: an impish figure who claims he would be a cowboy if he wasn’t a magician and who often wears the kind of satisfied half-smile of the only person in the room who knows what’s going on. His solo turn has the crowd well and truly onside from the start, as he rattles through a hugely entertaining set featuring new-school card tricks, chicanery with a hypnosis wheel, levitating props, and a bit making use of the group’s Sydney Festival-themed Instagram feed.
His namesake Justin Willman has more of a cheeky little-brother demeanour, and material that includes a coke can which seemingly defies the laws of physics, shenanigans with a balloon and an audience member’s phone, and a truly extraordinary maths trick using crowd-sourced numbers which has to be seen to be disbelieved. There’s also a real comic energy to him, meaning you never know whether a trick is heading for an astonishing reveal or a punch line, or sometimes both.
He’s also thoughtful about what it means to be a magician in our more cynical, tech-savvy times, when a free iPhone app can routinely do something which would have inspired awe and wonder just a generation ago. A bit where he tries to collaborate with Siri on a trick is both an impressive piece of sleight of hand and a painfully funny look at the travails of communicating with technology.
After the puppyish energy of Willman, the more quiet and deliberate approach of Nate Staniforth is a real change of pace. But while the Iowa native has less flash and less jokes than his colleagues, he is in his own way just as compelling a performer, whether involving a giddy audience member in what seems like a piece of mind-reading with a selection of old books, detouring via the Jim Rose circus, or finishing with a truly baffling piece of deception (not actually magic, he is at pains to explain) which may well break your brain if you try to figure it out.
Finally, hometown hero James Galea strikes gold when he recruits Fred, a hilariously stony-faced audience member who acts as the perfect foil to his manic, fast-talking energy. The unlikely pair work through a series of tricks which Galea explains are a kind of tip of the hat to his mentor, who was both a magician and con man. He ends with ‘673 King St’, the little gem of a card trick that earned him a place in magic revues as well as comedy galas worldwide.
While perhaps less of a collaborative affair than you might expect, there are some winning group efforts, including a set piece at a card table which also serves as a cautionary tale of why you should never play poker with magicians, and a final show-stopping, what-the-hell-just-happened routine with a mystery musical instrument.
With all four magicians having done the TV talk show rounds and won fans through viral videos, there is a wealth of YouTube material out there of their exploits. Much of it is worth watching – Justin Flom’s loosely structured, gorgeously shot Magic Block Party is a particular delight.
But if you can, it’s best to go into Band of Magicians in blissful ignorance of the reveals to get the full sucker-punch effect of this truly baffling, hilarious and even strangely moving marvel of a show.

More: Time Out talks to James Galea about living the dream of his 12-year-old self.

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By Daniel Herborn   |  

Band of Magicians - Sydney Festival 2014 video

Band of Magicians - Sydney Festival 2014 details

Cnr Church and Market Sts, Parramatta 2150

Telephone 02 8839 3399

Nearby Stations: Parramatta

Price $50.00 to $65.00

Date 09 Jan 2014-19 Jan 2014

Open No performance Monday

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