The art of the illusionist has continued to attract audiences for as long as there has been circuses and theatres in which to ply their skills. The audience knows what it’s seeing is a trick, but doesn’t care, and certainly doesn’t want to know, how it is achieved, just happy to go along with the flim-flam and be amazed.
Certainly when the illusionist is as accomplished in his skills as Michael Boyd, the producer and star of Circus of Illusion there is plenty to be amazed about.
Performed in a cheerful circusy setting of bright red banners and festoon lights, enhanced by a sophisticated lighting plot and excellent sound, Michael Boyd performs a succession of eye-popping illusions, surrounded by four attractively costumed dancers, Tori Monke, Pip Kelte, Jack Evans and Tyrone Anthony, who besides performing a series of neatly choreographed production numbers, also doubled as assistants and eye-candy for the illusions.
Two versatile world-class circus specialty artists, Tara Boom and Tro Griffiths, together with a very funny Ringmaster, Idris Stanbury, who just happens to come from Canberra, completed the cast.
During the fast-moving two hours of the slickly produced show, Boyd manages to escape from a locked trunk, survive being suspended atop a sharp sword, have a young woman crawl through his body, and during a jungle sequence even escape an apparatus equipped with fearsome axes to appear unscathed at the back of the theatre, much to the relief of the many young members of the audience who cheer lustily as he returned to the stage.
But perhaps his most beautiful illusion involved two ballerinas, one of whom danced prettily en-pointe before the other appeared magically in a giant music box to join her.
A rather unconventional ringmaster, Idris Stanbury, quickly had the predominantly young audience in thrall at the beginning of the show, as he rehearsed them in how to respond appropriately to the acts.
His goofy, wide-eyed responses drew paroxysms of laughter as demonstrated his prowess at percussion juggling (you’ll have to see that for yourself if you want to know what it is) and his attempts at rock stardom.
Beefy, heavily tattooed strongman, Tro Griffiths, stunned with his grace and agility performing contortionist handstands in the first act, and then later performing extraordinary manoeuvres on a shiny apparatus which looked like a giant bubble maker.
Cheeky Tara Boom delighted with her skills with the hula hoop, and later gracefully foot-juggling four Japanese parasols, an accomplishment which elicited loud cheers from her audience.
The Covid restriction preventing audience members from going up on stage provided an unexpected bonus when Ms Boom found herself unexpectedly called into service to assist Idris Stanley add authenticity to his rock star impersonation by wind-blowing his scarf with a garden leaf-blower.
This task reduced her to hopeless giggling at his antics. Then later, when called upon to assist Michael Boyd with his levitating table routine, she looked just as fascinated as the rest of the audience as to how this trick was achieved.
“That was totally Awesome!” a young audience member exclaimed loudly to his mates as they left the theatre. I wouldn’t disagree with that assessment.
Circus of Illusion
Canberra Theatre – Canberra Theatre Centre, Civic Square, Canberra
Performance: Saturday 16 January 2022 (matinee)
Image: Circus of Illusion – courtesy of Michael Boyd Productions
Review: Bill Stephens OAM