This Is Not A Magic Show (Mayfest) – The Wardrobe Theatre, Bristol

Writer and Performer: Vincent Gambini
Producer: Sally Rose
Reviewer: Chris Oldham


Vincent Gambini is not one of us. He’s pretending to be, but he’s not.

With This Is Not A Magic Show – playing across four different venues on four different dates as part of Mayfest – Gambini un­picks the traditional format of illusion­based performance using nothing more than a coin and a deck of cards. Beginning in his dressing room while he works out what his opening lines are going to be, and stressing over whether his first trick is flashy enough, he lets his hands do the real work, shuffling and cutting with such skill that it feels like he’s already performed several tricks before he’s even stepped onto stage.

Starting small, Gambini reels us in quietly with his shy-­guy-­in-­the-­pub ­awkwardness, and insistence that everything we think we’re seeing isn’t actually happening. Forgoing flashy showmanship he’s happy just to chat, working his way meticulously through several card tricks, and unveiling a much drier, wryer sense of humour and story­telling along the way, from anecdotes ranging from speaking to David Copperfield on the Magic Circle Helpline, to encounters in pubs with doubting, bearded hipsters.

Although his nonchalant style of trickery may not be new, in This Is Not A Magic Show, Gambini has created an addictive, subversive piece of theatre. Subtle, dead­pan, and meticulously executed.

And despite his supposed generosity in letting us in on the trick being nothing more than a ruse, it’s one that’s difficult not to give in to.

Like all great magicians, the truth behind the trickery is probably hiding right there in plain sight but, despite the title, there are no grand reveals here – certainly nothing that’s going to get him kicked out the Magic Circle anytime soon. The joy of magic after all, particularly when performed in such close­quarters, is surelya part of us desperately wants to believe it’s actually real.

It’s not of course. But Vincent Gambini is still not one of us. He’s just pretending to be.

Runs until: 22 May 2016

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