Magician Banachek astounds and intrigues the Toronto crowd at the Luminato Festival
A lot of people believe in telepathy, psychokinesis, past life regression and ghosts. These people go to a magic show ready and willing to believe. Others, like me, are skeptics who go simply for entertainment. Banachek’s The Alpha Project, playing as part of Luminato, is a great show for the latter. I suspect it might be a bit confusing for the former. For both kinds of people (and those in between) it’s still a fun night.
Banachek starts with classic tricks: having people from the audience pick a card in their minds and then guessing what it is, for example. He explains that he is able to make these eerily accurate guesses by assessing the body language of the audience member in question. It is impressive, as there would have to be 52 different physical cues that a person unconsciously adopts, given that there are 52 cards in a deck.
Another classic trick he does is having audience members mentally select a personal object, obscure it from him, and he again accurately guesses what it is. This is quite conceivably done via physical cues as well. One of these people, who was seated near me, had a credible explanation of things that may have broadcast his knowledge of what was in his hands, if only to a person with an expert magician’s acute observational abilities.
But this was just the beginning. Things become more astounding further into the show.
It isn’t until just before the intermission that Banachek drops the act of being a real telepathic, psychokinetic, medium and says outright that these are all tricks. Later on he tells us his story, which is quite touching, and involves how he had fooled real scientists into believing he could bend spoons with his mind as a youth. This context makes it engrossing when he bends spoons near the end of the show even though it’s another very standard trick.
As a skeptic with an inquiring mind, I found the tricks I could not explain very frustrating. Since Banachek is quick to admit that they are indeed tricks, a part of my brain kept hoping he would tell us how he did the confounding ones, even though I know that’s just not what magicians do. I expect there must have been one or two plants in the audience to pull off some of them. But trying to figure it out is part of the charm of the show.
One of the aspects I enjoyed most is how Banachek decries those who would have you believe they really can communicate with your dead relatives, and use that to take your money. He has been personally involved in debunking things like Power Bracelets and I appreciate a magic show that includes a call to rationality. Magic is not real but that doesn’t mean it can’t be fun, if you approach it as entertainment and protect yourself from scammers.
Now excuse me while I go back to trying to Google up methods Banachek might have used to make it look like he was performing the impossible on the Fleck Dance Theatre stage!
- Banachek’s The Alpha Project runs through June 10 at the Fleck Dance Theatre, 207 Queen’s Quay West (use the glass elevators at the back of the building)
- Performances June 8 and 9 at 8:00PM and June 10 at 2:00PM
- Tickets $$35 – $45
- For tickets and additional information visit www.luminato.com
- Banachek, photo by Richard Faverty