“Absurdly clever card trickery”
I’ve never been very good at card tricks. As someone for whom maths lessons loomed like Banquo at the feast, knowing the number work at play in even the simplest sleight veered me sharply away. So when presented with someone who can do it with skill, I’m naturally impressed; and when presented with Tony Roberts, I was delighted.
Though the audience I saw him in was small, I feel this made no difference: Roberts is an expert at playing a crowd as if it was a one on one conversation, turning what could have been a small show in the Roxy downstairs into a warm, intimate and deeply interesting conclave. Hosted by the titular lauded businessman-cum-acclaimed street performer, ‘Card Magic’ (as Roberts so quickly and happily points out) is what it says on the tin – though perhaps without fully advertising the sheer quality of the product inside. And what that exactly is, much like the man himself, is hard to describe. Part comedy show, part biography and with a heaped helping of absurdly clever card trickery, this was a performance which never failed to intrigue and entertain.
This show’s greatest asset (quite fittingly) is Roberts himself. Deeply charismatic from the moment he opens his mouth, he fails to fall into the trap of braggadociousness which plagues so many contemporary street magicians. It’s like hanging out with an Australian uncle down the pub, if that very same uncle had spent a few years trapped in a Johnny Ace Palmer show. It’s clear from the get-go exactly how Roberts can draw crowds on a busy street – not only his wit, but his genuineness and warmth.
But, of course, being an ace with his suits doesn’t hurt either – and Roberts is clearly one of the best. Even with repeat viewings, his tricks would boggle the mind. Shaking his hand at the end of the show (as he humbly asks of every audience member), it’s almost surreal to recall the sheer dexterousness with which his fingers move. Although some of the tricks flowed a little too subtly on from his storytelling (though with shuffling skills like his, it’s difficult to tell when the real show’s starting), their denouement is always satisfying, whether you know you’re there at first or not.
This is the kind of show that makes children wish to grow up to be magicians, and adults wish they’d had the chance. But, as Roberts own story proves, it’s never too late to start seeing the magic – and I can think of no better show to pull back the curtain.
Reviewer: Jacob Close (Seen 7 August)
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