There's something about magic - the very word, perhaps - that sets one's expectations very high. The idea of a magic show evokes a variety of feelings in different people, ranging from a sense of wonder at the impossible, or a sense of scepticism at the "tricks" that might explain the impossible. But add comedy to magic, and you have a whole new game on your hands. Especially when the show is one like Gobsmacked - performed with delightful skill and natural ease by seasoned entertainer Nick Nickolas.
Playing to a packed house on Tuesday night at the Melba Spiegeltent, Nick Nickolas had the audience enthralled from the moment he first stepped onto the stage. He quickly established a rapport with the audience, and successfully engaged them throughout the show - not just the first few rows, as comedians traditionally do, but all the way to the back. His main audience assistants on this night included an excited five-year-old boy in an early set, as well as the owner of a local nightclub (The Night Cat) in a later set. The variety of tricks, jokes and involved people made the hour whiz past with not a dull moment.
Nickolas performed an assortment of spectacular tricks using playing cards, rope, metal rings, cups and balls, hats, and so forth in traditional as well as innovative ways. Every trick was cleverly and skillfully executed, leaving people wondering "how on earth did he do that?" He repeatedly lulled the audience into a sense of expectation about what was coming up, only to reveal that he was just messing with them and that his actual trick was mindblowingly bigger and better than what he'd led you to predict.
And yet, the magic seemed almost supplemental to the comedy. The jokes flowed free and fast. The comic timing was impeccable, the delivery constantly energetic and never once predictable - not even for some of the more "classic" jokes. Nickolas helped the audience navigate their way through giggles, groans, chuckles, shock, guffaws and even "awws". A real surprise was the generous dose of dad jokes, delivered with gleeful pride and received with delight by children and adults alike. As something of a connoisseur of dad jokes, I'd have to say this was actually one of my favourite things about this show.
At the entrance of the Melba Spiegeltent, Collingwood. Image credit: Aridhi Anderson