Teeming with English cynicism and the widely felt nihilism that has become commonplace in 2018, Vincent Gambini presents a lovely hybrid of theatre and magic to create what he describes as ‘magic tricks where it gets sad in between’. In The Chore of Enchantment, Gambini questions the value of the world of magic that he has – allegedly – dedicated much of his life to. (There is a back story here as Gambini is the alter-ego of a well-known choreographer and performance artist, but as that person chooses to exclude himself from the show’s publicity material, he shall remain unnamed here.)
Gambini reveals that he practices magic so much, that he barely has any idea of what the real world is like: ‘the world is a place I go to for a couple of hours for a gig. Yet the severity in current affairs has somehow seeped into his mind – somebody who spends all their time creating fantasy. Not even magicians can escape 21st century doom. The wryness of The Chore Enchantment isn’t a misplaced self-deprecation of his own character, but works to complement the smoothness of his skills as a magician. It also allows his commentary on the post-truth era and looming climate catastrophes to fit in with the sleight-of-hand spectacles of the magic acts.
Turns out, according to Gambini, that the floating Yodas in Trafalgar Square are magicians who have fallen victim to what Gambini is experiencing throughout the performance. After collapsing out of their profession from existential exhaustion, they take respite in their green latex costumes, suspended above the ground, and practice self-medicated dream therapy.
This dream therapy is where the show takes place. Going over his last show in his head, Gambini uses his expert sleight of hand to wow the audience in a traditional magic format whilst also using his skills to launch a verbal exploration of contemporary worldwide issues, making coins teleport between hands whilst talking about the financial market, and using misdirection to make observations about where and what our attention is directed at when consuming media. Gambini provides an example of how he can use misdirection to check his phone whilst performing. Five minutes into an act involving cutting a rope into various and parts and then connecting them back together again, he swings the rope in front of him then absent mindedly turns to the side and pulls out his phone, seemingly under the impression that the audience can’t see what he’s doing. Such is the humour of The Chore of Enchantment. It’s clever and dry, with the comedy slickly following the same rhythmic patterns as the magic.
Throughout the show, the pre-recorded sound of Gambini’s voice chimes in at regular intervals reminding us that this is a repetition of a previous magic act. Being replayed in his head, the magician is attempting to get through the part of his act where he previous faltered and collapsed, giving up from a bout of depression. In his success in continuing through till the end, in his best form, finishing with a truly astounding card trick, Gambini gives us a gentle push in carrying on through these difficult times.
The Chore of Enchantment is produced in collaboration with the Attenborough Centre for Creative Arts, University of Sussex