By Jessica Taurins
Magic shows are a tricky thing, and close-up magic shows are even trickier. Every person in the audience is always looking for the trick, and being only a half meter from the magician means that every movement is under tight scrutiny. A terrifying prospect! Luckily Josh Staley, despite his youthful appearance and boisterous personality, has all the skill and presentation of a masterful old hand at magic, and manages to surprise his audience with every flick of his wrist and reveal of a card.
Staley’s show Moments in Time has a thin thread of story running through it, which really helps to tie each set piece together. His moments in time are his memories – being a kid and learning about a magical box that can only be purchased once you have enough mystical knowledge and experience… or perhaps once you’ve bought one of every other trick in the store and it’s the last thing you haven’t purchased yet. Or the other elements that have inspired him, like a set of cards his grandparents brought him from America, or seeing other close-up magicians and their performative flair. It’s an extremely endearing way to experience a magic show, as the intimate space and vignettes of Staley’s life make the magic even more special.
And oh, the magic is pretty special. As mentioned earlier, people are always on the lookout for how the sausage is made in a magic show. Things hidden up someone’s sleeve, or pre-folded cards, or plants in the audience intended to make things seem a bit more mystical. There are certainly a couple of fumbled sleight of hand moments, where perhaps a disappearing object didn’t quite disappear so smoothly, but 9/10 times Staley effortlessly makes various things apparate seemingly out of thin air.
Staley’s flourishes are really what make him a fantastic magician and performer. Many of his tricks are related to picking cards completely out of audience members’ brains, making them seem as though they had any sort of choice about what card would appear out of the deck. There’s a certain kind of finesse behind leading the audience to think they have any sort of impact on a card trick at all, and yet it’s always so impressive when four random people choose the exact card Staley happens to have up his sleeve. Certainly after the performance there would have been multiple people left wondering: what if I did have him shuffle again and I picked another card? Did he anticipate my every move? Is he really magical?
No, probably not. But then again, perhaps. The fun of magic shows, particularly those with heavy audience participation, is in having a laugh with someone who does something impressive right before your very eyes. Whether the magic is otherworldly or not, just being present with someone who can so smoothly package things into completely sealed fruits… that’s pretty magical anyway.