With the rise in popularity of the esoteric arts – Harry Potter, Supernatural, Stranger Things, et al – you’d assume the art of magic would have moved into bolder, exciting, more experimental territory come 2020. You could even assume magic on the fringe circuit would be even more avant-garde. With all the sex, drugs and rock’n’roll happening in tents next door, some of it has got to rub off on even the most conservative of magicians.
So why is it that as the years roll by, the magic shows at Fringe World appear more and more tame?
Adelaide export Matt Tarrant has the makings of a brilliant entertainer. He’s happy to draw on personal nostalgic experience but is also up-to-date in his pop cultural referencing. He respects the art of old-school trickery (plenty of classic sleight-of-hand) but knows an opportunity exists to extrapolate on this with the magic of multimedia. At one point in his show he hands a VHS cassette to his sound crew to reveal some surprising footage. It ties in nicely with the show’s retro bent but might leave audiences wondering why more technology wasn’t incorporated into the production to provide that whiz-bang element we’re waiting for.
While a lot of Tarrant’s memory tactics and exercises in telepathy are impressive – enough to warrant the artist’s continued popularity on the Fringe circuit – at times it felt like I was watching a magic show at a kids party, with familiar old card tricks and the same ol’ props set against a make-do backdrop. Even a promising display of very fast card-flashing to a soundtrack of cleverly cut-up pop songs brought to mind a lazy YouTube lyric video rather than any genuine wow factor.
I’d like to see the guy throwing caution to the wind and giving us more attitude, edge and spunk.
The more that magic becomes mainstream, the greater the job it is of the progressive magician to make their version evermore awesome and awe-inspiring, even if it means going against the grain and throwing away some of the old spells.
Matt Tarrant is a great draw-card to Fringe for first-timers and those wanting a family-friendly atmosphere, but next year I’d like to see the guy throwing caution to the wind and giving us more attitude, edge and spunk. He knows he can do it. ★★★
Matt Tarrant’s ‘Evolve’ is on at Megamouth in Yagan Square, Perth.