As we enter the dimly-lit environs of the gorgeous Spiegeltent Palais du Variété, the scent of incense hangs in the air, music plays, and ornate lighting hangs low around the stage. We could have just paraded into an Indian palace expecting exotic delights when a travelling conjuror, a jadoo-wallah in the form of magician Ben Hart takes to the stage.
Hart astounds the audience with a selection of illusions
Using his own mixed heritage (Hart is half-Indian on his father’s side) as a jumping off point for this performance perhaps makes Jadoo his most personal show yet, but when a magician’s job is to trick you, who can know if the tales are actually true? Resplendent in a white, double-breasted suit and sporting his trademark playful smirk, he tells us of how he has recently travelled to India to discover the rich history of street magic there. Hart speaks of meetings with Indian street magicians and regales us with stories from his own heritage, dazzling with stunning sleight of hand and some truly jaw-dropping magical moments. Using seemingly innocent props - a pair of wooden rings, a spool of thread, some borrowed jewellery, silk scarves, a small notepad - Hart astounds the audience with a selection of illusions.
Hart isn’t just a magician; he’s an entrancing storyteller who uses magic to punctuate his wonderful tales. In Jadoo, he wants to assist the audience in recapturing the magical delight of the world around us. Hart certainly succeeds in presenting that childlike amazement in the miracle of nature and everyday occurrences by apparently upending the natural order of things. The staging choice of having Hart perform in the round - on a circular stage in the centre of the audience - only adds to to the wonderment.
If you’re a long-time fan of Hart’s shows, then you may have seen a couple of these routines before, although not in entirely the same way. But this is no bad thing; the magic on display is imaginative and innovative in its presentation. These tricks aren’t flashy and full of distractions, they are simple and intimate, with a sense of reverence for the art. This is the latest in an ever-growing resume of narrative magic shows from a true master-magician.