Ben Hart takes to the stage with a grin and a monologue, explaining his connection to numbers in somber tones, complete with suspenseful music tinkering in the background.
“In order to make something disappear,” he explains, “you need to forget it ever existed.” Large chunks of his life disappear along with a pen. This parlor trick comes with an amnesiac’s toll. God forbid he should magic away his wallet or his keys, lest he wake up with only the memories of childhood before those essentials were bestowed upon him.
Random asides like this characterize the show; they are intriguing, but ultimately pointless. His tricks, when they do finally come, are impressive but anticlimactic – often failing to measure up to the philosophical musings that he uses to stall for time.
Part of the problem resides in the size of the venue. His subtle card tricks centered around numbers and finesse lose some nuance from meters away. Ben Hart is a detail-oriented magician, but the Teviot Dining Room is hardly an intimate venue. It wasn’t just the wow-factor of his tricks, but sometimes his coherency that suffered. Facial expressions to convey sarcasm and even crucial audience responses are lost to viewers beyond row three. “Is this your card?” he asks a man seated in the front. The man’s answer is swallowed by the room and the rest of us never find out.
The show really comes together towards the end, when shadow play and some audience-shuffled cards lead to some shocking conclusions. Lacking momentum, Hart requires some audience members to remind him to tie those strings together once he tries to prematurely conclude the show. “Of course!” he says, remembering, and salvages some of the amazement. The magic is there, but the presentation leaves something to be desired.
Words: Emily Hall
Ben Hart: Belief, Gilded Balloon Teviot, Aug 21-27, 5.45pm