Luminato 2012 Review: From The Dark – Juan Esteban Varela (Magicana and Luminato)

From the Dark, part of Luminato’s magic programming, lets magician Varela take you on an unseen journey

From the Dark, by Juan Esteban Varela, which part of Luminato’s magic programming, is definitely unlike any show I’ve ever seen before – because I didn’t see it at all.

When you first arrive you are given blindfolds and sorted into groups of ten, who stand side by side in a line of five, holding hands with the person beside them (so you might want to go in an even numbered group of people, it was a little odd for me to be holding hands with a stranger.) Our guide instructed us to put our free hands on the shoulder of the person in front of us and then he led us into the theatre.

Once inside, things got even darker – you could tell there were no lights on in the theatre through the blindfold. Occasionally I caught a muted flash of something, which I assumed must be a flashlight being used by one of the guides.

Once we reached our assigned row the guide placed each one of us in a seat and gave us a box that had Velcro straps to attach to our legs. Inside the boxes were a variety of objects that we were instructed to take out at various points during the show and manipulate in some way. These objects, the sound of our voices, and Varela’s voice, were the mode of communicating the magic tricks.

The show was designed so that “non-sighted people [could] experience the same sense of astonishment that sighted audiences have felt for centuries while in the presence of a magician” and it’s also pretty fun for those of us with sight as well. Unfortunately, I was a bit spoiled by having seen Banachek before this. Banachek left me pondering how on earth he could have done some of the things he did, whereas Varela’s show didn’t have that same mystery. Varela’s tricks were impressive in that it must have taken a lot of skill and careful planning to pull them off, but I could always conceive of how they could be done.

There was also a part of the show that disturbed me; he was telling a story where anthropomorphic playing cards who have been shipwrecked end up on an island of cannibals. That sort of thing gives me racism chills. I’m not sure if it was made better or worse by being preceded with Varela telling us that the ship fell apart because it came from his homeland of Chile where everything is shoddily constructed.

My problems with it notwithstanding, I applaud Varela for taking the initiative to make magic accessible to those with visual disabilities, and I hope to see such shows proliferate.