Pros: An innovative and intimate production. You won’t see anything like this elsewhere.
Cons: If you’re easily spooked you might want to give this one a miss.
For those of us who best know the Dublin Castle as a place for sticky evenings of Murphy’s stout and very earnest dancing, Reality Abuse is a refreshing change of pace. This unique experience, part of the Camden Fringe, is a bit like an old-fashioned parlour séance. Except that instead of a Victorian sitting room we’re in the back of the Dublin Castle, and instead of trying to raise the dead, the magician is trying to convince us that we are experiencing hallucinations. The show isn’t a spook-fest but is still quite creepy at times, so some may find the anticipation of fear overwhelming. I’m speaking here as the kind of person who, if there’s anything remotely startling in a show, tends to ‘Eep!’ loudly and jump in a neighbour’s lap. There was no actual eep-ing on this occasion but the potential was definitely there.
Throughout the show magician S1L3NC3 does not speak. There’s some prerecorded audio and the performer also communicates using a range of exquisitely designed objects: a flag, a carved box, an artist’s sketch pad. The stage design is simple but evocative. Thirteen people sit around a large table and the majority of the illusions take place there. A few people are called to a chair set up remotely on the stage for mind reading or, in one case, a tactile illusion. I’m hesitant to give more details about the act as it’s such an individual experience that I doubt any two people will emerge feeling they’ve seen exactly the same thing.
Though I think performing the show in silence is one of its more compelling and unique aspects, it’s precisely this which also causes the show to be a little confusing at times. Magician patter isn’t there just to cover up sleight-of-hand with a distracting flow of words. It’s also designed to highlight the spectacle of an act and to prepare an audience for the illusion by setting their expectations. Because of the silence we often don’t know what to expect, so there are times when a trick finishes and it takes the audience a few moments to think about what our expectations should have been and how the illusion contradicted them. A rare occurrence for a magic show, I think a second viewing could improve the experience because you’d be more familiar with the format and thus able to concentrate more on the illusions themselves. That is if you can get tickets a second time – I think this one will be a sellout.
While I generally enjoy audience-participation shows and I’m a particular fan of magic shows, like most people I have a nagging fear that I’m going to somehow screw it up and ruin the whole show for everybody, or at least cringe-worthily embarrass myself. Well, it finally happened. A bit. Near the end of the show S1L3NC3 hands a member of the audience, your humble reviewer in this case, a sheet of paper which contains instructions to read something out loud. I miss the reading-aloud sentence and after I finish silently reading the paragraphs to myself, we all sit around staring at one another in mute confusion until the guy next to me takes pity and points out on the sheet of paper where it says I am supposed to use my voice now. Luckily the next thing that happens is all the lights going out, gratifying me with the illusion I crave at that moment most of all: my own disappearance.
Performed and produced by: S1L3NCE
Booking Link: www.camdenfringe.com/detailact.php?acts_id=442
Booking Until: 23 August 2014, weekends only.