Posts made in May, 2014

Ben Hart: The Outsider

Posted by on May 19, 2014 in Reviews

Ben Hart: The OutsiderAs a magic designer and consultant as well as a magician, Ben Hart works as much behind the scenes as he does in front of an audience. This is someone who thinks deeply about magic and how giving it a frame and a context can magnify its impact and enhance its entertainment value. He also sets great store by originality and the show is refreshingly free of corn and the well worn lines so many magicians insist on using, even though they really weren’t funny the first time.

As a concept, The Outsider is admittedly not a totally original one – the magician as a nerd with no friends and psychopathic tendencies – but it’s cleverly done. Mostly, magicians of this sort merely allude to it in passing, making jokes about their lack of social skills and relationships, but Ben addresses it head on, punctuating proceedings with disturbing videos from the future. It’s a cool idea but the problem is, it doesn’t match the persona we’re seeing: the Ben in front of us is gentle and charming, treating the audience with courtesy and consideration. In itself, this is to be highly commended, of course (how I wish all magicians would show this kind of respect for their paying customers!); it just jars with the concept of the weird, unreachable mind, incapable of distinguishing between good and evil.

But perhaps I’m being pernickety. If we put that dissonance aside, the show is a collection of wonderful pieces of magic, each with its own internal consistency. Even though the story doesn’t always fit convincingly with the teller, I love the fact that Ben bothers to spin proper tales around his effects. Using magic (ostensibly) to illustrate points about psychology gives the experience so much more emotional depth than the usual, “Look what I can do”.

Ben is an extremely technically skilled magician who understands what makes magic magical. This show combines modern takes on some classics, clever reworkings of some effects I’d seen before but never appreciated as much and a few astonishing feats that were completely new to me.

The tour continues till the end of July and I urge you to see this show if you can. Beyond that, look out for more Killer Magic when it returns to BBC Three.

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