Christian Cagigal’s Obscura is an utterly charming magic show, but it’s more than that: it’s a theatrical experience incorporating card tricks, music boxes and storytelling.
Cagigal’s performance style is intimate, authentic and engaging.
Cagigal performs at a small table with only a musicbox or two, a notebook and a few decks of cards as his props. Above him, fixed close on his hands, a camera projects onto the backdrop behind him, allowing us two vantage points from which to watch. He began the show by promising, “this will be a little different.” Different it certainly was.
There’s no snake-oil salesman pitches or flashy magic here. Instead the playing cards become characters in his hands as he tells stories of gambling, religious inquisition and the misadventures of a forgotten cousin who tried to defy a deal with a trickster from New Orleans.
Cagigal’s performance style is intimate, authentic and engaging. Whether he is speaking as a character, in storyteller mode, or as his own pleasant self, he creates a good connection with the audience and is so disarming that no one balked (too much) when it came time for audience participation.
I was called to the stage to play a card game against him. Cagigal explained that his grandmother had taught him to play cards by telling him stories about the cards. He demonstrated this by asking me to join him in a game of war between the red and black card suits.
As we took it in turns to choose which card soldiers would die and as Cagigal told the sombre story behind each dead soldier (in the audience, the laughs turned to noises of pity), he performed some kind of sleight of hand, because when equal numbers were dead on each side, I turned over the last card to find out the winner of war and found it – well, that would be telling. Just one of many parables he performed, animated by magic and by turns funny, sinister, or made of small heartbreaks.
Obscura is a delightful show that proves no one is ever too grown up for magic, a show poignant in its simplicity and originality. Cagigal’s artful use of storytelling meant that – much like so many coins or cards – he had us in the palm of his hand.