By Carissa Shale

4 STARS

Live From the Laneway is the latest endeavour by local magician, Tim Ellis, to bring some magic into audiences lives while theatres remain empty. Performed live from The Laneway Theatre in Northcote, Tim Ellis invites the audience through a glow-in-the-dark graveyard into one of Melbourne’s quirkiest venues, packed full of magic memorabilia, all from the comfort of your own home. Performed with special appearances from Melbourne magicians Lawrence Leung and Josh Staley, Ellis welcomes you inside a magicians home to witness sleight of hand and illusion up close in an immersive and interactive experience that let participants feel right at home on stage.

The technical logistics of a zoom performance are considerable, but were handled well by both Ellis, and Ben Whimpey, the production’s stage manager. They used the zoom technology to their advantage, using different screen configurations to make the show easier to watch and more appealing to the eye. A lot of responsibility also rested on audience members who needed to follow instructions to mute/unmute their audio and cameras when participating in magic tricks. For the most part, audience participation did not affect the pace of the performance, and the occasional technical hiccup or surprise cameo from a confused audience member that accidentally popped up on screen, did not phase Ellis in the slightest; a testament to his experience as a performer.

While most magic shows involve some sort of audience participation, Live From the Laneway lets the audience guide the course of the show as randomly chosen spectators decide which trick Ellis will perform next from a ‘Magic Menu’. The choice is no illusion either! With 20 unique options to choose from, Tim leaves you wondering what could have been.

Ellis introduced the guest performers with high praise saying both magicians would surely fool the iconic Vegas magic duo Penn & Teller, if given the chance, and I must agree.

Leung’s original routine ‘I Miss You So Much’ explored the idea of making connections, even while apart; a very poignant topic in an era of social distancing. Not only was Leung’s performance heart-warming and topical, but absolutely fooling.

Meanwhile, Josh Staley added his own personal flair to a classic of magic, ‘Any Card at Any Number’. Ellis described Staley’s routine as one of the best versions of this trick he has seen; well-deserved praise for a trick which delivered astonishment and surprise. Staley’s charming performance left the audience gobsmacked and questioning how on earth he did it.

All three performers spared no effort in making their set and costume appear as theatrical and magical as possible. Tim Ellis was positioned in front of the Laneway Theatre’s spectacular bookshelf, while both Leung and Staley sat in front of very regal looking fireplaces, decorated with mystifying magical props and impossible objects including a deck of cards somehow stuck inside a small glass bottle.

While Tim was composed and serious for much of the show, his playful and quirky side revealed itself towards the end of the show as he made light of the situation we are all currently faced with. A personal favourite of mine was his clever quip, “is that hand sanitiser in your pocket or are you just happy to be 1.5 meters away from me?”

Audience members from all over Australia, many who would never have been able to attend The Laneway Theatre before, were welcomed into it’s quirky walls. In only a short 60 minutes, Live from The Laneway immersed a pyjama-wearing, couch-bound audience in the magic of the theatre, and helped bring us all closer together to share a moment of wonderment.

Dates and times: Live From the Laneway was a once-off zoom performance, however Tim Ellis continues the magic with a nightly video series LANEWAY LIVE on Facebook Live, as well as regular weekly and monthly zoom performances.
Tickets: By donation
Bookings: https://thelanewaytheatre.com

Set: 5/5, Costumes: 4/5, Sound: 5/5, Lighting: 5/5, Performances: 5/5, Stage management: 4/5 ,Direction: 4/5

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