David Ben brings The Conjuror‘s magic back to the Toronto Stage
The Conjuror David Ben showed off some family-friendly hocus pocus at Toronto’s Young Centre for the Performing Arts. Watching The Conjuror in action was a enchanting way to welcome the new year for me and my little companion.
Set in 1909 at London’s St. George’s Hall, the show was a mesmerizing series of magic feats typical of the Golden Age of Magic: we saw a person being sawed in half (ouch!), a handkerchief playing hide and seek, and an egg being thrown around without breaking.
The set was simple. We did not see a flashy David Copperfield-style spectacle, but instead saw classic acts performed against a relatively plain background. No neon lights or booming music. As a result, we were successfully transported to an early 20th century London stage.
The act I liked best was his opener: he made several oranges appear out of thin air. “How did he do that?” whispered my friend. It wasn’t the last time I heard that question. She particularly liked watching David Ben make his playing cards vanish into an empty hanging frame. I found the end of this act a bit clumsy since two of the cards stuck together, but my guest took no notice.
She was also awed by the final act: David Ben was strapped inside a cabin and suddenly reappeared among the audience members. Seeing him unbound in the aisle next to us was a hilarious shocker. The people behind us laughed uncontrollably.
We were not only be dazzled by his magic tricks, but were also entertained by his humour. I cracked up when his young assistant inadvertently hypnotized him. And we also enjoyed his anecdotes about his conversations with his contemporaries: Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Conan Doyle, Pablo Picasso. I don’t think I’ve heard the name Lord Baden Powell for twenty years, so I liked how David Ben cleverly referred to him during some knot-making. The Conjuror was indeed an all-ages giggle fest.
I counted about a dozen acts in total. The show was well-paced and action-packed, and it kept us in wonder for the whole hour and twenty minutes. The kids had no problem sitting down for so long, as their imaginations kept them alert the whole time.
Warning: audience participation–lots of it. If you’d like to intern as a magician’s assistant, no matter how old you are, buy a seat in the front row. The Conjuror called up about ten people for hands-on magic practice.
- The Conjuror is playing at the Young Centre for the Performing Arts in the Distillery District (50 Tank House Lane)
- Performances run until January 4
- Showtimes: January 2 at 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.; January 3 at 12:30, 3:00 and 7:30 p.m.; January 4 at 12:30 and 3:00 p.m.
- Ticket prices range from $25 to $69
- Tickets can be purchased by calling the Box Office at 416.866.8666 or online
Photo of David Ben by Cylla von Tiedemann
One thought on “Review (Kid +1): The Conjuror (Magicana / Soulpepper)”
I had the pleasure of catching this show today. Ben’s a talented performer and has a peculiar gift for getting little people to play along (which, considering his stage persona is quite dry and professional rather than the usual kiddy-party magician schtick, is a particular accomplishment), but I have to say, I could have done without him dressing in yellowface for ten minutes — and without his assistant doing himself up as a 1910-era “Chinaman”.
I understand that this is a period performance and that Chinoiserie was a vital part of several contemporary magic shows (Chung Ling Soo built a career around it, as did many imitators and admirers), but wouldn’t faux-Asian clothing and furniture suffice? Why is it necessary that he go for the full buck-toothed fright-makeup sinister-eyeliner’d coolie?
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