It’s hard to believe it’s been over a year without theatre. True, a few of us got to see outdoor shows in summer 2020, and few of us got to socially distanced indoor ones before they had to shut in December 2020. But the last time there was a full house in a theatre was early March 2020. With a few socially distanced shows hoping to reopen on 17 May, we still won’t see full houses again until late June 2021 at the earliest in the UK (probably with the audience in masks).
Credit then to all those theatres and artists who have tried to bring the stage online. An early thank you to the National Theatre for putting so many of their shows online – although please, please, please can we have Follies one day? Fond memories too of the Old Vic for doing shows live on their stage, with audiences tuning in from around the world. And a bravo to regional venues who did the same with tiny resources. Sheffield Theatres ‘The Band Plays On’ sticks out as a particularly good one.
One thing I’d not seen during this Year of Zoom (or Doom if you prefer), was an online magic show. Surely the trickery depends on being in the same room as the magician. With no audience to see for themselves, how do you believe in the magic? I was intrigued then to find out more about ‘The Secret Connection’ who recently started doing online magic shows.
When you buy a ticket you get sent a mysterious pack of props in the post. Aside from a luxurious deck of playing cards, I won’t say exactly what it contains, but the props do allow you to interact with the show. When you join the Zoom call there are maybe 30 other people in the virtual room waiting for the magician to arrive, and then, as if by magic, he appears.
The host is Dr Will Houstoun who looks like he’s coming live and direct from a grungy old factory. With his specs, beard and waistcoat he could easily be a university professor, and his style is quite academic but in a good way – the sort of lecture that you’d actually want to go to! There’s a bit about the history of magic with Houdini getting a mention, and some short chats with the audience, but nowhere near as scary as a real-life show might be when you’re brought onto the stage.
When the tricks start they are top quality. Adapted to work online, perhaps, but at their core is the trickery that makes you scratch your head and think ‘how did he do that?’ I won’t reveal too much, as is the way with a magic show, we can’t spoil the surprises, but the audience reactions in Zoom were both strong and positively encouraged. I’m sure there would have been a standing ovation if we’d been watching in real life. The show itself could work as a family night out or as a corporate get together. If I wanted to add a bit of sparkle to an online away day then an hour with Dr Houstoun would be a great bit of team building.
Theatres will be back soon, but for anyone missing the connection of live performance a night with The Secret Connection is a splendid way to fill the gap…