Brighton Fringe 2013
A one-man show which takes an entertaining look at superstitious and magical thinking. Occasionally controversial and always entertaining, “Stuperstition” is filled with both impossible feats and thought provoking demonstrations.
Stuart Lightbody’s show starts off before it has begun – there’s this guy with a radio mike pack attached to his belt, all dressed in black, a little too neat and slight to be a security guard – maybe he is just a helper. He is milling in the audience as they come in, handing out cards, to some, with all the signs of the zodiac on them, and instructions to circle your sign, and write your date of birth clearly in the space beneath. It’s all quite pleasant and low key. Then when the audience is settled there is a not too loud and rather unassuming fanfare, the lights go up, and that same fellow introduces himself as Stuart Lightbody and demonstrates some sinuous (it’s just the way he moves his hand and wrist) coin magic. The coin goes here, there, and everywhere, appearing and disappearing, just like a magician working the tables at a conference. It’s a little underwhelming. But things don’t stay underwhelming . They don’t burst out (the things), but his tricks and illusions increase in difficulty and wonderment, cumulatively, until there is a point where you are thinking, “Wow, this guy is really good!”
Lightbody has a very engaging but not effusive stage presence – his selection method of audience members, for participation in the tricks, is very polite, and almost apologetic. As the show gathers momentum he keeps the tension lightly balanced: a finding of a random word seems to falter when he shows a set of numbers on a card instead of the word he is supposed to find. I won’t spoil the trick by saying what comes next, but I think this was one of the stages at which the audience starting gasping.
All this with a rather genuine and self-deprecating stage persona which is very likable and trustworthy. He is a good presenter, with well timed gags and asides, none the less effective for being quietly delivered. Where he does get serious is in his contempt for those who make a lot of money by saying they can contact the dead, and running lucrative shows exploiting the bereaved. Stuart Lightbody is also on a mission to debunk spiritualists, homeopaths, by demonstrating how easy it is to fool your senses.
One particular trick has two sides to it – the bemused, who are seeing what seems to be magic performed in front of their eyes, and the unbemused who he allows to see the sleight of hand that creates the illusion. It’s a great demonstration of the ease with which the eye is fooled (though that doesn’t mean it is an easy trick to perform!)
Later tricks like the voodoo doll and swallowed needles really get the audience going. Once again he starts off quite slowly and reasonably, then escalates the performance, culminating in… – well, you really should go and see for yourself. His lack of hype and lack of jazzed up excitement is endearing, although I can’t help thinking he could up the ante a bit here, maybe with some more atmospheric lighting or sound effects.
His show bears comparison with Derren Brown (and Richard Wiseman’s debunking shows as well). At the end of the show you come away knowing you’ve been fooled and distracted and mislead, but not in a bad way, not in a lead you up the garden path and fleece you of all your money sort of way, no, in a very entertaining and informative way. If Brian Cox were an illusionist he’d be a bit like Stuart Lightbody, just a little louder, but just as personable.