The Illusionists: seven magic wonders arrive in the UAE

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Fans of magic and illusion arrived from across the Gulf to witness internationally acclaimed magicians perform in “The Illusionists,” a show held in Dubai this week.

Events company Alchemy Project spearheaded the drive to bring together seven of the world’s most renowned illusionists including a mind-reader and a “gravity defying” magician, The Enchantress.

The show has attracted a diverse audience, according to the managing partner of Alchemy Project, Sia S. Far.

“So far, 25 to 30 percent of the audience have been coming from other GCC countries, specifically Kuwait, Qatar and Saudi Arabia” he told Al Arabiya English.

“Yesterday, we had a couple of people coming with their suitcases,” he added.

With tickets selling out for the series of shows set to end on Sept. 6, there are usually around 2,300 viewers at each performance. The show can be watched simultaneously on three large screens in the auditorium, so the large audience can watch the detailed tricks up close.

Although the warm reception comes as a relief for event organizers, there was initial hesitation as Dubai’s audience, along with the visiting members of the audience who hail from GCC countries, have high standards that are not easy to meet, which has been one of the main challenges for the artists, Far explained.

“Some cultures are not very easy to entertain, and that has been one of the main artists’ challenges… we have a diversity of nationalities here, and the people in Dubai have almost seen everything, so [the artists] have high standards of delivery, and that is one of our [targets], but it’s been very well received,” he said.

But, along with the cultural mix of people present at the shows in Dubai comes a different tolerance standard for what is considered acceptable.

Organizers have been planning the show since mid-February and, as part of their research, “we went to Melbourne to see the show, before accepting and finalizing the contract,” Far said. “The [show] over all was very family friendly, some of the acts of the anti-conjurer were a little bit controversial, with some sexual banter… these were kind of switched into a format that should not offend, [we toned] it down a little.”

However, he added that “99 percent of the show is exactly what it was without any alterations and we wanted to make sure that that’s the case.”

In Friday’s show, Dan Sperry, The Anti-Conjurer, mesmerized the audience with his Gothic look, black make-up and seemingly bizarre attitude. He is described as “David Copperfield meets Marilyn Manson” according to international media and seemed to shock the audience with his daring tricks.

The Mentalist, Philip Escoffey, specializes in “mind reading and the paranormal,” according to the show’s promotional publications, his performance involved volunteers from the audience.

The Gentleman, Mark Kalin, specializes in “classic magic reimagines.” He brings the good old magical mysteries back to life, for example with his coffin trick, where co-performer The Enchantress is apparently cut to pieces by blades, before reappearing safe and all in one piece.

Jinger Leigh, The Enchantress, aligns her ‘skills of grace and gravity defiance’ with her theatrical and elegantly attractive attitude on stage.

Jeff Hobson, The Trickster, was certainly the life of the party making the audience laugh with his witty comments. He even displayed his talents in the pick-pocketing department , stealing, but later returning, three wrist watches from audiences members he invited up onto stage.

Meanwhile, Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, had the entire audience holding their breaths with him as he performed Harry Houdini’s famous “water torture cell” trick, where he was locked upside down in tiny cell containing 1,000 gallons of water. Handcuffed, he only had a bobby pin to free his hands, and feet, from which he hanged.

Last but not least, Kevin James, The Inventor, specializes in “magic inventions and ground breaking illusions.” His repertoire included cutting a man in half and then putting him back together, alive.

“Excellent job, thoroughly enjoyed it,” wrote Alex Mir, a Dubai resident wrote on The Illusionists’ Facebook group.

“[The show has] been very well received,” added Far, “one of the main points of the show is that it’s magic, illusion, but with a lot of interaction with the crowd at the same time, [also] it’s funny at the same time.”

No doubt this has been a huge success for Alchemy Project, established by the 22-year-old twin brothers, Mac and Sia S. Far five years ago. So far they have expanded the business to become a prominent entertainment platform based in Turkey, the UAE, and Brazil.

“We usually have around 25 people as permanent team members of Alchemy Project, but we go up to 250 or 300 or even higher on a project to project basis, depending on the type of the show,” Far told Al Arabiya English.

Since 2008, Alchemy Project has produced over 2000 shows around the Middle East, bringing international performances such as Cirque du Soleil, the Royal Moscow Ballet, and now the Illusionist to the region.

“This has been one of the smoothest projects that we’ve done, and it’s just a confirmation of the fact that we’re getting used to these types of shows, and the team is catching up with the pressure,” concluded Far.

The Illusionists in Dubai

The Inventor managed to bring a miniature Charlie Chaplin toy to life, but his finger got hurt. (Photo courtesy: Alchemy Project)

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