There’s an old saying in the entertainment world. 'Make sure the show looks like the poster.'
With that in mind I ventured into the Visy Theatre (Brisbane Powerhouse, 29 November) expecting a suave, waistcoated illusionist sporting an Elvis-style quiff and a sharp shirt and tie.
OK, so the image was a bit cliché but when the MC welcomed illusionist and mentalist Matt Tarrant to the stage and the lights came up on a roughly dressed male wearing the stock standard uniform of indie grunge (torn black jeans and t-shirt) I thought we were in the wrong show. “He’s an imposter,” I whispered to my partner.
It didn’t take long to realise that yes, this was indeed the critically acclaimed Adelaidian who makes a living out of being 'Honestly Dishonest'.
From the outset, the show looked promising – particularly when Matt promised to expose the ‘tricks’ behind his stage craft. That was his first dishonest act. Rather than let us in on the secret, he suggests we Google it after the show.
Matt goes on to explain what drew him to magic including stories of the famous one armed René Lavand whose card flipping tricks inspired him to pursue a career in magic. He uses a video screen for some super close-up card tricks, which are executed in slow motion. But despite the camera, it is impossible to see the sleight of hand behind the trick.
Matt is relaxed onstage and his banter with the audience comes easily. Matt has clearly honed his skills over many years and he delivers a fast-paced show that is engaging, inclusive, amusing and baffling. The performance is about as casual as his clothes and far removed from the highly produced productions we’re used to seeing on TV, which makes it even more appealing.
Matt also has a unique way of selecting audience members to join him onstage. Rather than pick someone, a soft toy called ‘Cat Bus’ is thrown randomly around the theatre and whoever catches it is invited on stage.
Matt’s unconventional card tricks aren’t entirely original, but they are inexplicable and he carries them off with sufficient ease to impress the near capacity crowd.
From predicting numbers to mind-blowing illusions, Matt is in command and his show develops steadily over 60 minutes, culminating in his routine as a mentalist. This is when things get interesting. Matt asks six members of the audience to think of a number and repeat it silently in their head. In a few moments he calls out six numbers, accurately telling us the numbers each were thinking of.
There are plenty of ‘WTF’ moments as you try to work out exactly how he executed these feats of magic, which Matt claims are not set-up. But then we know he isn’t being entirely honest, maybe even dishonest.
So how does he do it? I’m tempted to follow his advice and Google it, but that would spoil the fun and the illusion and right now I’m enjoying being seriously perplexed.
Rating: Well worth the ticket price.
Matt Tarrant: Honestly Dishonest continues at Wonderland Festival at Brisbane Powerhouse
till 2 December.