The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, Sydney, May 20
Walking through the front doors of The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, situated in Macquarie Street not far from the Sydney Opera House, it feels as if you are stepping into another era. The faded glamour of the beautiful historical building whisks you back decades as if time has stood still here.
It’s the perfect setting for Bruce Glen’s show The Gentleman Magician, a magical soirée in which he aims to re-create the ambience of a 19th century European salon. The ticket includes a glass of bubbly and canapés on arrival and then as we settle into seats facing the small raised platform where he will perform, he suddenly appears among us, a welcoming, genial presence.
The Gentleman Magician has none of the razzle-dazzle and flashy stage-craft of shows like The Illusionists recently seen in Sydney. Instead it’s an intimate evening for an audience of around 70 in which Glen – who is a member of The Magic Circle – combines consummate story-telling with magic tricks. An ambient soundtrack plays quietly in the background to create a slightly mysterious atmosphere, while an assistant unobtrusively sets up various acts.
Glen has researched the area and tells tales of local showmen from times past, as well as international stars like Houdini, not to mention the ghost who apparently haunts the building. He has given each of his tricks a name such as All Ropes Are Not Created Equal, Another Con Job, The Imaginary Psychic and Wonderland – the latter, a card trick performed with a member of the audience in which he draws on Lewis Carroll’s Alice books.
Presenting himself as a professional “liar” and avowed skeptic, he performs mind-reading illusions, using the trickery that charlatans have employed to pose as psychics. In one of his signature pieces, Percy Pitch, he brings his own twist to the “one cup and one ball” trick by performing it while narrating a poem that he wrote in the style of Banjo Patterson.
I reckon I could see how a couple of tricks were done but most were satisfyingly baffling. All in all, it’s a thoroughly entertaining evening (running around 70 minutes) performed by the genteel Glen with stylish, old-fashioned charm.
Bruce Glen performs The Gentleman Magician at The Royal Automobile Club of Australia, 89 Macquarie Street, Sydney every Friday night. Bookings are essential: www.gentlemanmagician.com.au or 1300 033 599