Poof! Secrets of a Magician

Poof! Secrets of a Magician Created, Written and Performed by James Galea

Directed by Wayne Harrison

Sydney Opera House Drama Theatre

Reviewed by Ron Lee, CSP

Despite the bewildering inefficiency of the Sydney Festival media relations department, I eventually managed to see just one show that was on offer during January.

James Galea is a multi-talented performer who uses stage and close-up magic as the chosen medium for displaying his impressive skills at story telling, music and stand-up comedy.

The show opens with Galea reliving the time he came out to tell his parents that, yes, he’s a magician. The title of the show, Poof! Secrets of a Magician and the song, “Are All Magicians Gay?” set up the other ongoing theme.

Galea has a penchant for card tricks, which are usually performed close-up, so he has a roving cameraman, and the tricks are projected onto a big screen. Fortunately, unlike just about every other amateur and professional card magician, he doesn’t wear a knowing, stupid grin as he’s asking, “Is this your card?”. Nor does he say the “magiciany” clichés such as, “Pick a card, any card”, “I blow on my hand”, “I say the magic words”, “Have we ever met before?”, “I sprinkle the magic dust”, “I snap my fingers”, “I wave my hand” or “Be prepared to be amazed!”

Even though the magic routines are well-tried, tested and executed, the story line and the music do most of the heavy lifting.

Galea accurately describes the performance as not so much a magic show as a magic cabaret. It starts with the story of Magic Ian, the fourteen-year-old Galea’s mentor, then his experience as a children’s party clown. In an endearing example of vulnerability, he depicts his performance at a magicans’ convention. The duck pan routine goes horribly wrong and he ends up almost burning down the theatre.

Galea is cynical about one section of the magic community, as expressed in his catchy singalong piece, “All Psychics Are Cunts”. Some of the songs that he performs to his own piano accompaniment are reminiscent of Tim Minchin.

The finale comes when a unicorn is thrown around the audience and the catchers nominate random objects that Galea incorporates into a story. The magic occurs when the long, narrow banner with all of the elements written on it are taken from a capsule that’s in a box that has been suspended from the ceiling.

Poof! Secrets of a Magician is an entertaining and personal piece of theatre, and given James Galea’s strong stage presence and skills, it will certainly be especially popular amongst gay men.

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