Wonders review

4 out of 5 stars
Scott Silven
Photograph: Jeff Smith

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Even the most sceptical of audience members will become true believers at this illusionist's show

We might not fully understand it, but what Scottish mentalist Scott Silven can do is astonishing. Whether he’s actually reading minds, employing tricks of mental manipulation, or has a system of elaborate illusions going on, it’s astonishing.

In his show Wonders, which plays in the magical surrounds of a spiegeltent, the sharply dressed Silven takes the audience on a journey back to his childhood, playing strange games alone in his grandparents’ attic. As he explored the corners of their attic, he also explored the corners of his own mind, and he claims that he began to discover his ability to make mental connections to the world around him in weird and wonderful ways.

Interspersed in this narrative are demonstrations of Silven’s extraordinary skill as a mentalist, which involves audience members at every turn. His ability to convince that he’s reading minds – and that random audience members are able to perform similar feats under his instruction – is absolutely dazzling. The complexity of his work is spectacular, and he draws together the threads of just about every “ta-dah” moment in the final moments of the show. Even non-believers, like myself, will be blown away by the artistry.

The only criticism is that the 75-minute show could be a little shorter, given that there’s little narrative. But Silven is still a captivating presence in this venue, and he imbues each of his illusions with strong emotional connections. Unfortunately his other Melbourne Festival show – which features a full feast and a more intimate audience – is totally sold out.

The best indication of a good night of illusion is the way you feel when you walk out the door. You want to feel astonished, and maybe a little bit baffled. And I challenge anybody who isn’t in his field to try to figure out Silven’s act. I felt both those things, but I also felt like my mental state had shifted slightly – I was in a space where my subconscious was starting to notice connections between different thoughts in my head and what I saw outside of the spiegeltent. It’s a difficult thing to explain, but it was properly eerie. And there are few performers out there who can affect you in such a surprising way.

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