Imagine the setting. A cabaret seating set up in the downstairs section of the Latest Music Bar, a lone magician doing up close personal magic as you settled down with a drink, with a simple table and chairs set up on the stage. The lights dimmed and a phantomesque compère with spooky lighting under his face introduced The Secrets of Jack Roulette. Part theatre, part magic show, and part film, we saw the nightmarish dream-like state of famous magician Jack Roulette as he relived his nightmare to rescue himself and his glamorous assistant from 'Wonderland'.
Has all the ingredients to make this a strong show to watch.
Anton Binder created an engaging and watchable experience as the main show evolved. Using the character of Jack Roulette, he set out to explore the idea of whether we could choose our own fate, or whether fate was decided for us. This was indicated by a silver balloon being passed around the audience, not knowing whether one of us would be his chosen volunteer, or whether we were going to be a pawn in the nightmare Roulette had experienced. The main objective was to untangle the secrets of magic in order to break the nightmare — without Binder giving too much away, of course.
There were however two elements that let the show down on the night I watched it. Firstly, whilst the 1920s style private detective set the scene well when a mysterious package turned up, the American accent necessary for the character kept fluctuating between British and American, so it was hard to keep the illusion. Also, during the show, a cardboard box that Binder used to collect answer cards from the audience fell apart as he was collecting the cards! Whilst this type of malfunction can happen during a show, and cannot always be helped, it looked like Binder was thrown by the experience, and didn't seem to cover this up well; even when he said later on that he 'meant to fail'. What might help in the future is to make it clearer that it is part of the show, as there was a risk that the frenzied cover up may have confused the audience as to whether it was deliberate or not.
Despite those observations, The Secrets of Jack Roulette had all the ingredients to make this a strong show to watch. It had comedy, intricate magic tricks, Alice in Wonderland references, as well as beautiful animations and film noir style filmed sections created by Danish film maker Sally A. Ward. Her work was so well designed and reminiscent of the 1920s onwards that we wanted more of her work shown. This needed to be experienced to be believed.