Writer: Philipp Oberlohr
Director: Margot Newkirk Grambow
Reviewer: Richard Maguire
There’s something for everybody at this year’s Vault Festival taking place under the arches at Waterloo: theatre, comedy, cabaret, music and dance. Unfortunately, Das Fest, a mindreading show from Austria doesn’t seem to be for anybody. Das Fest translates as The Party, but it’s not a party you’d want to go to again.
Derren Brown notwithstanding, mindreading and mesmerism seem very old-fashioned nowadays, something you may find at the end of Blackpool pier or in the heats of Britain’s Got Talent. Mindreader Philipp Oberlohr appears aware that this kind of performance is dated and so channels an old-world Viennese charm into his character, even resurrecting Sigmund Freud in some sections. But even though Oberlohr is endearing and kind, his tricks don’t really add up to much.
What could be entertaining in a short ten minutes as part of a revue show gets dragged out to an hour and it’s often painfully slow as the tricks are punctuated by unnecessary monologues. Oberlohr relates stories about burning shoelaces and offers us generalities about futures and destinies, accidents and strangers. These overly earnest diversions have little to do with the rest of the show. They seem to be there just to fill time.
The trick, and there, ultimately, appears to be just one, is focussed on ‘reading’ sealed envelopes. After splitting the audience into two, one side is required to write down favourite memories while the other side is to write down dares or hopes. After collecting these hopes and memories in upturned umbrellas Oberlohr then begins to surmise what is inside the memory envelopes. Of course, he ‘guesses’ correctly, but each success is muted. There is no fanfare of achievement but more tellingly there are no gasps from the audience. Seldom are audience member called upon to verify Oberlohr’s magic, and it’s not too difficult to work out how he discovers that one man’s favourite memory is sunbathing on a beach with his cat, or that one woman’s childhood ambition was to be an actor.
Still, this would be okay if there was some big reveal to come, a trick that would leave us reeling. But that never comes, and if Oberlohr never gets to your memory or your dare it’s easy to become disengaged. By the end of this long 60 minutes, you might be hoping that he can read minds after all, and that he’ll realise that you want the show to stop. Now.
Runs until 4 March 2018 | Image: Daniel Haingartner