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July 23, 2011

Event: VISION (link)
Run: 15-24 July 2011
Venue: Esplanade Theatre
Cast: Lawrence & Priscilla Khong
Creative/Production team: Produced by Felina Khong; Directed by Samantha Scott-Blackhall & Beatrice Chia-Richmond, Music by Kenn C.

With a tagline “Where Seeing is Just the Beginning”, what we saw was a vision of non-reality, a vision of possibilities or impossibilities. That’s how I would describe the magic. VISION is the latest, if not largest, theatrical magical production since MAGICBOX staged three years ago by the father-daughter team of “The Magic of Lawrence and Priscilla“, which will capture you in the illusions woven before your eyes. Being meant as a magical showcase with a storyline, the story tells of the relationship between a father-daughter pair of magicians. The daughter feels neglected by the father, whom she believes is only concerned about himself and magic. In a bid to test him and win him back, she creates an alternate reality and they are both transported into it. It goes through memories of his and her childhood, and for her, she has a bad memory of believing that her father chose a phone call over her while practising a trick, which resulted in her being injured and scarred. Later, in a bid to make her father forget about magic, she attempts to break its spell on him as a boy. That leads to a lost future for him. Finally, she realised it was a misunderstanding and her memory had failed her. Father-daughter patches up.

Having worked very hard and gone a long way over the years, Lawrence and Priscilla, have the skill to show. As Jeremy commented (he’s the one more familiar with this area, while I just watch), it was good that they performed a variety of illusions catering from personal (close-range) to that for a bigger audience.

My favourite illusion was in “Act 1 Scene 1: A Las Vegas Style Magic Show – Don’t blink your eyes”. In less than a blink, Lawrence and Priscilla swopped places instantaneously by just a wave of the cloth. Other highlights included:
1) the sudden appearance of a Lotus Evora on stage. They had 4 people from the audience to guard the sides of the canopy (which was set up on the spot) and when it was removed, the car was there!
2) The disappearing act into the “alternate reality” – The cylindrical rim where the centre is hollow, but halved by a centre piece, which as the person steps through, disappears (doesn’t appear on the other half-side).
3) The empty container that was suddenly filled with a truckload of people.
4) The “great escape” near the end where they were chained and raised up and given 30 seconds to escape before they were dropped, whereby at due time, they appeared in the audience.
5) The ring trick where he randomly picked 3 ordinary rings from the audience and linked & delinked them by just throwing them into a glass. I could understand if it were “magical” rings, but ordinary ones like wedding bands, etc.?

There were also the usual conjuring and levitation tricks and the newspaper trick. Although I’ve seen some of these tricks many times, whether on TV or stage, it never ceases to amaze me.

The sound design played some part in creating effect too. This was my first time hearing a very “surround” effect in the Esplanade Theatre and of course, keeping us guessing on where they would appear. I think the sound engineering part was done quite well, though some parts were slightly loud. And my, the sets were massive and so varied! Not just the magical props which I heard cost quite a lot especially the box stuff (and there were quite a few of these), but also the theatrical sets (platforms, backdrop, etc.). The Capitol Theatre backdrop was quite magical in the way that I didn’t realise the images were projected onto it. Initially, I thought it was a painted wooden backdrop, until they starting screening the “Slightly Scarlet” trailer followed by various changes to the scene. Haha, maybe I wasn’t looking hard enough.

Unfortunately though, the story was weak. Well, honestly, I wasn’t expecting much. As ideal as it would be to meld magic and drama together, insofar, it might prove less practical in real life (have not really seen a successful one yet). One can either focus on performing magic, or focus on the story. Yes, you can have simple magic tricks in a story, but with magic on this scale, it’s not easy. And as Jeremy said, it felt a bit contrived. We understand the desire to explore the father-daughter relationship story but it didn’t come out strong enough, and the underlying message wasn’t clear. The chicken pox story was a major downer for the whole climax of the show. They could have just kept to the falling story and him rescuing her without adding that in. Maybe a musical-type performance might have worked better because songs could have added depth to the story and characters.

Nevertheless, I guess the magic alone is good enough to warrant a watch. I know I’m asking too much, but it would have been splendid and grand if, with a bow, the main cast did a disappearing act as an encore finale. Ha!

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