[Theatre Review] The Magic of an Expensive Production

GPS_3018

Vision

Lawrence Khong & Priscilla Khong

5 July 2015

Esplanade Theatre

3–12 July 2015

A defining moment in the history of magic is the arrival of Val Valentino as the The Masked Magician. His audacity to reveal all the tricks of the trade has set a ridiculously high standard for magicians of this generation.

Sceptical audiences, including myself, are no longer satisfied with saying, “Wow! How did they do that?”  To impress us, we have to go, “This is utterly impossible. No sleight of hand can achieve this.” In sum, we demand acts that are impossible, not difficult.

Vision, unfortunately, offers acts that are rather difficult but far from impossible. In fact, a great deal of their illusions are sophisticated versions of those Valentino revealed in the late 1990s. Only two illusions manage to enthral me for they seem impossible despite all the lighting and stage effects that Esplanade provides.

The audience must bear in mind that the stage of Esplanade is cavernous. What is seen is merely half the size of the actual stage space. This allows for endless possibilities for their conceal-and-reveal routines. The intricate lighting and stage machinery also enhance the possibilities to distract the audience.

In an attempt to stand apart from other acts, Lawrence and Priscilla Khong—a father-daughter duo— decides to add in a narrative of a troubled father and daughter relationship that is written and directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall. This seems to be a desperate device to facilitate the transition from one illusion to the next.

Worse still, both magicians are rather uninspiring actors. The inclusion of the skit only serves to unnecessarily prolong the show. Blackhall should have added an additional item in her invoice to the producer; acting lessons for the Khongs.

The only redemptive aspect of the production, apart from the two illusions which impressed me, is the troupe of wonderful and energetic dancers. They exude a strong stage presence and flexibility in tackling different dance styles as they appear larger-than-life on stage.

Readers may accuse me of being unfairly demanding on the production. However, one needs to look no further than some of the magicians from America’s Got Talent. At almost no cost at all, they are able to put a creative spin on old card tricks or sawing a lady into half. The trick to ensuring the future of magic is to come up with something new, however small the change is, rather than focusing on performing an old trick more efficiently.

Far from evoking a sense of wonder, Vision is only a testament to the technical possibilities a theatre can achieve. The real magicians of the show are Priscil Poh (set designer) and Nick Ho (lighting designer).