Mentalism and comedy might be an uncommon combination, but performers Andrew Phoenix and Emma Wesslus prove it’s a worthwhile experiment in this lighthearted hour of tricks and jokes.
An upbeat evening of entertainment
Unfortunately, not too many had ventured down to the Walrus’ basement for this performance on this particular Monday night, leaving the duo a little stumped. Both mentalism and comedy work best with crowds, when a collective group reaction can help to reinforce both astonishment and laughter. Having a limited pool for volunteers to choose from also made the act trickier to accomplish. However, the small audience was at least game to get involved, which helped to build some atmosphere in the harshly lit pub basement.
A smaller than desired audience is difficult for any interactive act to handle. However, a lot of Mentalless’ comedy was playing on the concept of things not quite going to plan, such as Phoenix and Wesslus misunderstanding each other, and therefore having to sometimes seem to renegotiate tricks or tease their volunteers as a result. When the lines become blurred between performed awkwardness and the real thing, knowing when to laugh becomes uncertain. Not only this, but a couple of the illusions were not too difficult to figure out. In general, a few of the tricks and punchlines needed to be presented with more confidence in order to better flag the desired reaction from the audience.
So a few jokes fell flat, and not all of the illusions were truly amazing. However, it was hard to stop smiling throughout the hour, and the apparent inebriation of a couple of the volunteers also led to a lot of laughter. The unexpected intimacy of the audience also lent a strange sense of camaraderie to proceedings… maybe we even experienced a “connection”.
The on-stage relationship between Phoenix and Wesslus didn’t always have the sparky chemistry that was perhaps needed to elevate this performance, but their friendship felt genuine and unforced. The duo clearly enjoyed interacting with the audience, and that warmth was returned to them. Giving each volunteer a mini Toblerone as a reward for helping out was also a nice touch.
One small misstep was the apparent inclusion of peanuts in a trick that involved an audience member, and subsequent joking around Phoenix claiming to have an allergy. Although unlikely to cause many issues in a pub setting where nuts are a common snack of choice, it might have been wise to choose something different if they don’t want to include a warning, and joking about causing an allergic reaction is rarely warranted.
In general though, the script poked gentle fun at the general seriousness of mentalism, as they claimed to be able to read not only the audience’s minds, but their own! There were some excellent puns, and some very funny recurring references. Phoenix and Wesslus each had their own distinct character, which made it easy to play up the power dynamics of the pairing for laughs.
Probably the most impressive trick was their Rubix cube finale, or when they predicted the page one volunteer would pick out of a book of 500 pages. Also enjoyable was an early warm up predict-the-card trick, as well as the way they teased the audience over doodles they’d been asked to draw.
If you’re into serious mentalism or magic, you might not be overly dazzled as many of the tricks might not survive overthinking. But Mentalless never promised to be serious. In fact, quite the opposite. If you’re looking for an upbeat evening of entertainment, give Mentalless a go. Although, maybe just not late night on a Monday.