Tag Archives: magic

Theatre Review: Luke Jermay: Sixth Sense (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

What a card! Luke Jermay himself. Photograph: Kippa Matthews. Courtesy of the artist.

What a card! Luke Jermay himself. Photograph: Kippa Matthews. Courtesy of the artist.

Rating: *****

Luke Jermay can read your mind. Or at least that’s the premise of this show. With the seal of approval from both Derren Brown and Dynamo, this was never going to be some tawdry penny dreadful, no matter how cynical you are of such feats.

To be clear, this isn’t a “psychic” reading where con-artists exploit the vulnerability of emotional adults by asking a series of leading questions: or ‘cold reading’ as the method is know. Neither is Jermay going to tell you whether or not you’ll meet a tall, dark, handsome stranger (they’re never ginger, are they?), or the winning lottery numbers. He’ll simply read your thoughts at that moment, and will do so with frightening accuracy.

Shows like these are always going to attract sceptics and nay-sayers eager to find some fatal flaw in the process that will expose the artist as a fraud. However, Jermay’s approach is fully aware of this, and his show is aimed specifically at them. Knowing that no amount of astonishing results he can pull out of a hat will ever convince them, Jermay’s approach is very clever; he’s not trying to convince just them, but instead makes everyone leave deeply unsure.

With a slightly sinister premise for the show, and the severe-looking posters of him sporting an encyclopaedia of tattoos, you’re not quite expecting the rather innocuous and slightly shambling Basildon boy that is Jermay. None the less, as he starts to warm-up and begins to get an unsettling amount of details correct from his volunteers, his harmless nature suddenly becomes uncomfortably disarming. As the show goes on, the thoughts he reads begin to get more and more detailed in nature, taking readings both frivolous and serious from a huge range of audience members; somewhere around 20 in total.

If this is all a ruse, it’s one of the most elaborate around. For starters, he lets images selected from a pack of shuffled tarot cards lead what nature of reading he’ll do next, adding a sense of spontaneity and caprice. Furthermore, if all the audience members he takes readings from are indeed planted, then not only must the show be costing a fortune to stage, but Jermay has monopolised some of the best off-West End actors going. Those he reads from seem genuinely taken aback by what he relays. Notably, one audience member who sat next to me was genuinely shocked that he correctly got the colour of her underwear correct. Needless to say, despite knowing the importance of verifying facts as a journalist, I decided not to check. However, that’s not to say that this is implausible. You only have the assumption that these reactions and their word that they have not been approached before the show are true. But if it is all as real as Jermay says it is, then it’s a mind-blowing.

But ignoring the arguments about authenticity, what makes this show brilliant is Jermay’s superb sense of theatre. He’s never 100% right with his readings, and this is the most interesting thing about him. Whilst this might initially seem unimpressive, this air of fallibility actually makes him and his purported gift all the more intriguing. These misreadings could well be part of a more meticulous execution than you could imagine. If they are, it’s an excellent and slick misdirection. If not, then it just adds more enigma to his talent than before. This is what really sucks you in as it creates an overwhelming sense of grand drama that drives the show and your interest.

Furthermore, he does a great job of really including you as an audience. Through a few participation exercises, he makes you feel as integral to the show as those he just happens to take readings from. This sense of involvement makes you fall even deeper in captivation. He also makes sure that as unsettled as you are, there are also plenty of laughs, adding to his artillery of cheeky charms and making him seem more human than superhuman.

In short, I’m unable to tell you whether this is coup of mere suggestion or the genuine article of something that is staggeringly supernatural. But none the less, this is a humdinger of a mystery show that is as marvellous as he is mystic.

Luke Jermay: Sixth Sense played at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC2H 7BX, 8 – 13 July 2013.

Theatre Review: SIRO-A (Leicester Square Theatre, London)

Siro-A. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

Siro-A. Photograph: Courtesy of Kevin Wilson PR.

NB: This is my review of Siro-A’s 2013 show. If you’re looking for their 2014/2015 show, click here.

Rating: *****

‘Virtual Reality’ noun. A computer-generated environment that, to the person experiencing it, closely resembles reality. – www.collinsdictionary.com Forget everything you thought about ‘virtual reality’ and prepare yourself for something far more extraordinary. Japanese group SIRO-A bring their ground-breaking show to London. Mixing live performance with 3D projections, techno music, dance, lasers, shadow-play, and traditional magic, the result is an enthralling and exhilarating hour-long assault on your senses.

Projection in theatre is nothing new, and those familiar with the work of Complicite will have already been wowed by such innovations. But SIRO-A raises the bar to an all new level that won’t fail to awe even the most hardy theatre buffs. And even if it manages to somehow unimpressed you’ve got to admire the tireless robotic precision it takes to execute such a show – SIRO-A are more akin to androids than men.

But this isn’t ‘virtual reality’, this is ‘virtual hyper-reality’. The group perform playing with and manipulating set and projected image that blur the boundaries between life and technology to the point where they’re almost indistinguishable – it’s like someone has dropped a tablet of acid between two Telsa Coils and you’ve subsequently woken up inside the internet. There are moments where life and image are one and the same and it’s impossible to tell them apart. Is that hole projected or a real one? Is that a performer or a video bursting through the screen? Confusion is gloriously rife.

The hour long spectacle absolutely flies by and nothing drags. Whilst it’s the group’s visual innovations that drive it, it’s also propelled by hypnotic video animation and thumping techno music. Also, there is also a good dollop of playful humour that really augments the show and varies the pacing. If this was a full-on serious affair no matter how bedazzling the gimmicks are there’s too much potential for it to become stale. But you end up chuckling just as much as you sit there with your mouth agape.

The show is pristine and faultless. However, unfortunately the same can’t be said about the venue. The problem with the Leicester Square Theatre is that it’s absence of raking means it’s a little irritating to have to crane your neck around any person above average height who you have the misfortune to be sat behind. Also, being so close up means it’s easier to spot the tiny give-away flaws that are unavoidable in such a technically demanding production. A quick search on YouTube and you’ll find that they’ve played much larger venues and the show is just as impressive, if not more so. But the inadequacies of the theatre are not so much of a burden to bear that it should stop anyone from seeing the show as it’s still utterly brilliant.

Overall SIRO-A is literally unbelievable. A magic show for the twenty-second century that’s unfathomably astonishing.

SIRO-A plays at the Leicester Square Theatre, London, WC1H 7BX, until 22 April 2013. Tickets are £17.00 (concessions available). To book, visit www.siro-a.co.uk.