Deviser and performer:Philipp Oberlohr
Director: James Blakey
Are You Part of The Game? It sound like the opening of a weekend quiz show on ITV or Channel 4, inviting participants to look under their seats and see if they’ve been chosen to go head to head with Philip Schofield in the quest for prizes via dubious means. As the invite to a show billed as ‘a mindreading experience, blurring the lines between performance and reality’, it carries with it more sinister connotations, but don’t let any apprehension about potential engagement with the dark arts put you off. Equally don’t be put off by fears of this being little more than a magic show. Das Spiel is an incredibly well crafted show that owes more to theatre and dramatic traditions than to end-of-the-pier illusionists.
Deviser and performer Philipp Oberlohr is either a magician, a mind reader, a very elaborate trickster or a combination of the three. It really doesn’t matter as the audience is left trying to work out how clocks change times, how scribbled drawings are described without being seen, and how a host of other things happen that suggest Oberlohr knows exactly what his audience are thinking.
As the strapline suggests, this is a show with audience participation. After an opening card trick that makes no pretence of being much more than random chance, one person is invited to the stage as a person we can trust, and, through a series of different selection methods, further participants are invited to be part of The Game itself. The dialogue and staging is key to the show’s success. It works as performance art, punctuated with, and defined by, illusion, rather than being a collection of tricks with the loosest of narrative threads linking them together. In this respect, Oberlohr is undoubtedly aided by a creative team, including dramaturg Eve Leigh and producer Cristina Catalina, who do not come from inside the magic circle, and understand how to blend dramatic tension with, sometimes self deprecating, humour. It draws you in so that it is not just the illusions or magic you are waiting for, even though these are, of course, the main focus of the show.
It would be remiss to mention how Oberlohr chooses his participants, or indeed what The Game actually is, for fear of spoiling the illusion and leaving future audiences aware of what will happen and trying to second guess him. So, suffice to say that, while there may be card tricks, there are no rabbits coming out of hats, coins coming out of ears, or Debbie McGee’s sawn in half by Paul Daniels. It’s mind games, psychological tricks and eerily accurate predictions. You guess there is sleight of hand and speculate as to what technological support might be enlisted to pull it off, but crucially you only do this after the show. Das Spiel is interactive theatre, and uplifting, for all of its one hour, or however long your watch may claim it’s been, if you’re the one chosen for one of the opening illusions. A great alternative to pretty much everything else you’re likely to find in fringe theatre most evenings.
Runs until 16 May 2015