Tim Ellis opens his new show Astonishment by talking about how magicians don’t always get a lot of reaction from their audiences – the sound of astonishment is often silence. He encouraged the audience to make some noise – gasps or groans, just something to let him know he was getting a reaction, beyond seeing jaws hit the floor. For the next hour we heard lots of noise – laughter, gasps, denial and shouts of delight. The Laneway Theatre, built in Ellis’ house, is a cosy, intimate venue, so there is nowhere for Ellis hide. It’s far harder to assume smoke and mirrors are responsible for what you are seeing, when you feel that you could reach out and touch the performer (many could – it’s a very audience participatory type of show). Almost everyone in the small audience participated in at least one trick – a few people even went back for more.
Ellis is one of those performers that even if you aren’t into their genre/field, their face is familiar. Tim Ellis has performed on a LOT of TV shows, and is something of the face of magic in Australia. He is calm and personable when you meet him as you take your seat, and wait for the show to start, or perhaps explore his magic and puzzle collection. Once the lights go down, his energy levels rise as the performance begins. Every single trick that Ellis performs involves a volunteer from the audience. The large number of children in the audience could potentially have caused a few problems in that regard, but they managed to participate without anything going amiss, and it seemed that several were repeat visitors. Ellis’ patter as he moves through his performance, and the nature of some of the tricks kept the laughs coming steadily. It’s easy to see how he won the ‘Best Close up Magician in Australia’, in fact it almost seems like a job requirement in this tiny (but very comfortable) theatre. It really was quite amazing to be so close to the performer and still not be able to work out how certain illusions were performed.
The tricks involved a range of approaches from the traditional, such as card tricks and follow the ball, to more unique. One of the most amazing involved a personal item from the audience being discovered inside a sealed box.
Ellis is a consummate performer, and the show went without a hitch, other than the one in the rope that kept magically ‘healing’ itself, despite being hacked apart with blunt scissors multiple times. If you wish to regain the wonder you had as a child, visit the Laneway Theatre during the comedy festival and prepare to be Astonished!
– Reviewed by Suzanne Tare, Theatre People