Pros: Philip Oberlohr is an easy performer to warm to. He disarms the audience with charm to establish a comfortable atmosphere throughout.
Cons: The power of the illusions themselves – some of which are quite astonishing – is lost due to erratic pacing and a lack of clarity.
Gathered in VAULT Festival’s cavernous Crescent venue – the festival’s biggest auditorium – an air of anticipation grew among the hardy souls who’d braved the elements and were now taking refuge from the Beast from the East, waiting to watch a mentalist from the Centre-ish (illusionist Philip Oberlohr is from Austria). Above ground the world was freezing, and things were about to feel chilled beneath it too – unfortunately in a literal sense only.
Described by one major publication as “Vienna’s Master Illusionist”, with Das Fest Oberlohr has attempted to create a a show combining elements of comedy, performance art, and illusion. Superficially, he’s been successful – this show does contain a little of all three – but each element is lacking, and the mixture doesn’t develop into a very exciting or cohesive piece.
Having said that, this show relies heavily on strong audience interaction, and the crowd at the performance I witnessed were cold in more ways than one. Oberlohr’s natural charm and easy demeanour couldn’t thaw the peculiarly frigid atmosphere, and a few participants from the audience seemed either unable or unwilling to help him out. On another night, things might have gone very differently.
However, this is not a review of the audience of Das Fest on 28th February 2018. It is a review of Das Fest. One wouldn’t come out of a bad play and blame the audience for being bored, and similarly here it is not the audience’s fault that the tricks were generally underwhelming (and occasionally unsuccessful), or that the show’s pacing and content were bewildering. There are some impressive moments or ‘readings’, but these were surrounded by a lot of fluff which made it hard to tell when they had occurred. Almost everything gained a muted response, despite Oberlohr creating what could be actual moments of genuine wonder.
Philip Oberlohr’s onstage persona is very likeable, and he’s evidently a talented illusionist – it’s worth noting that Das Spiel, the prequel to Das Fest, won the People’s Choice Award at VAULT Festival in 2016. As such, Das Fest really feels like a misstep. With some streamlining, the fundamentals of a compelling show are definitely there. At the moment, though, it’s difficult to know what to make of it. An illusionist he may be, but Oberlohr would struggle to trick anyone into believing that this is a show living up to its potential.
Written and Performed by: Philip Oberhohr
Booking Until: 4 March 2018
Box Office: 07598 676 202
Booking Link: https://vaultfestival.com/whats-on/das-fest/