Tim Ellis burst out of the blocks by telling us of his own childhood and how, as a young boy, he was lured into the world of magic. It was a warm and very personable beginning to a magic show that set the standard for Melbourne's Magic Festival, two weeks in July when we can all suspend reality and indulge into a child's world. President of The Australian Institute of Magic, Tim Ellis is well-known as an artist in his own right, and as a mentor of new talent. He upholds the professionalism of this undervalued, yet classic entertainment art-form. Get along to Northcote Town Hall in the school holidays (or any number of the festival's other host venues) to experience a whole new world that you will never want to leave. It's magic.
Tim's silver, glitz-metallic shoes promised a razzle-dazzle theatrical show. This is Magic was slick and faced-paced, harmonised with flawless continuity that you would expect from a consummate professional and design genius. Continuity is an incredible feat in a magic show because it necessitates much improvisation and random audience participation to verify tricks and to make the magic 'believable'.
Tim and Natalie performed 'suspension' with an audience member on standby to witness and verify. Everyone has their theories, but the overwhelming audience response was- 'How?'
Tim Ellis is slick and sophisticated, yet accessible and approachable. His well-rehearsed show was suited to families and delighted children, but the adult audience was equally captivated. Audience assistants represented different age groups. One of the most striking features about a magic show is the audience's willingness to participate. It sets an all-inclusive, community energy that is warm, social and uplifting.
As President of The Australian Institute of Magic, Tim Ellis inspires young and emerging artists to perform and to make magic their full-time career. Such is his belief: 'Magic is a universal language that everyone can learn.'
Tim showed his sleight-of-hand skills through 'coin-in-bucket' tricks while the lovely Natalie was suspended in mid-air. To the uninitiated, it was impossible to analyse this illusion. Natalie and Tim have a gracious on-stage rapport. This trick was case-in-point of Tim's high-end craftsmanship, he often uses an array of techniques, simultaneously. Maybe, it is complex distraction at play, but it shows his life-long devotion to magic and in getting it right. He also weaves stories and anecdotes into the show with close attention paid to props and the details of story-telling that make the skits authentic, original and memorable.
The thematic narrative was tight and well-construed. Tim's diligence and discipline was not lost on this audience, many of whom were creative performers and artists who had come along to 'see something a little different'. Tim Ellis combines actor, presenter and improvisation skills with script-writing, production-editing, stage-design and magi-art. He also has a natural ability to work with children. Both children and adults were invited to verify 'the house of cards' which held up to close scrutiny. Chantelle, the young lady invited to sit and stage and select the cards exclaimed: 'I was amazed, she said: I had no intention of even saying the six of spades- it just came out! I have no idea how he did that or why that even happened!'
Tim Ellis used a narrative backdrop to set the scene and played to the crowd. His 50s-inspired 'balls- under-the-empty-milkshake-containers' was performed to Run-around Sue and showed the populism of magic itself. Equally as fun were his snazzy costume changes (the cosmic silver shoes did not last) and magic tricks that were reminiscent of sketch comedy. As seems to be a festival thread, Tim changed the tone of the 'bending spoons' sequence to explain 'distraction' as a magician's centrepiece. However, even within this educative interlude, he maintained his showmanship. Understanding 'misdirection' within sleight-of-hand was interwoven as an important part of the story of magic and its success or failure.
The Melbourne Magic Show runs from July 3rd to the 15th with back-to-back shows staged across the city. Now in its 10th year, the festival is ideal school holiday fun.
For children, in particular, there was so much affirmation in this show. Of course, we remember slick tricks and sleight-of-hand illusion with cards and coins, balls and buckets- and the magic rings were utterly hypnotic. However, over and above the magician's theatrics, Tim's epilogue revealed 'the magic behind the magic': 'it is all about', he confided, 'the confidence to be ourselves'.
There was not one person in this community-orientated audience who was not impressed with Tim's skill, showmanship and positive messages. When Tim spoke about his own mentors, he was gracious and humble, presenting the magic industry as one that is honourable and respectful. Mentorship was an important theme to This is Magic. Tim Ellis has been a strong advocate of the junior championships, which in 2017 were once again a festival highlight.
Great School Holiday Fun All Over Melbourne
The Melbourne Magic Festival is now in its second week and performances are scheduled throughout the day and night at Northcote Town Hall, The Magic School of Confidence, Swinburne, Wesley Anne, The 86 Cabaret Bar, Tall, Dark and Art, The Magic Zone and The Arts Centre. It is possibly one of Melbourne's most under-rated festivals because it is not just for children and families: adults who want to have a laugh, suspend belief and to reflect upon the field of illusion and manipulation will be both challenged and entertained.
'Watch of the sleight-of-hand', said Tim Ellis. A key-note magician's skill is the 'art of misdirection'.
This is Magic is a great show and Tim Ellis is one of Melbourne's go-to magicians and performance mentors. Make it your mission to see this act, as well as going to a festival that has attracted 60 artists from around Australia, international masters and 300 performances of 65 different shows. Melbourne Magic Festival is great fun and cross-generational entertainment is assured.