Posts made in October, 2015

Jake Banfield’s Sprezzatura Show

Posted by on Oct 24, 2015 in Reviews

Sprezzatura-ShowJake Banfield’s magic show at The Charlotte Street Hotel in central London is a very enjoyable – and civilised – way to spend a Saturday evening. At the performance I attended, there was a couple in the audience on one of their first dates and it struck me what a perfect choice they’d made in coming to Sprezzatura: excellent entertainment in luxurious surroundings and the bond of having experienced wonder together.

The word sprezzatura is originally Italian, invented by author Baldassare Castiglione in The Book of the Courtier. The reason it had to be invented is that it covers a lot of nuances of meaning (have a look at the Wikipedia article about it) but essentially it describes the ability to carry out difficult tasks so effortlessly as to appear nonchalant. For me, this invokes an image of someone rather more formal and distant than Jake, and less genuine, but I see why he chose it and it’s a lot more inventive than most magic show titles.

In the elegant, comfortable, 75-seat auditorium, Jake presents 21st-century parlour magic. The house lights are up throughout the performance (as I remember it – certainly most of the time), which gives you an indication of the level of audience involvement. Jake doesn’t want us just to watch the magic, he wants us to feel part of it. I definitely felt part of it and, judging by the reactions of those around me, everyone else did too. From the personalised seating-plan to the way Jake relates to his volunteers, everything is designed to make us feel special and well looked after.

The show is well structured, with call-backs that give it a satisfying cohesion. It’s a good mixture of conjuring and mentalism, nicely choreographed to make full use of the space. While it lacks dramatic tension in spots, this is largely made up for by the relaxed and happy atmosphere Jake creates. This is no spooky exploration of the dark side; it’s a cruise through the pleasingly wondrous.

Too many magicians have sharp edges but Jake is a well rounded character, who builds rapport with his audience in a way few performers manage to do. He does this by being sincere and by having the mental bandwidth available, despite the complex and difficult tasks he’s carrying out covertly, to connect with the people he’s talking to. Putting aside the baggage I acquired by reading The Book of the Courtier at university, I’ve decided that perhaps contemporary sprezzatura is about being laid-back and presenting the extraordinary without hype. If that is what sprezzatura has come to mean, Jake Banfield has got it in spades.

The show is on only every couple of months, so keep an eye on Jake’s website for dates.

Read More