Prague Fringe 2013
Even the most hard headed atheists amongst us will occasionally have moments of superstitious belief, when we ascribe things we cannot explain to unseen forces. We see this in all sorts of places, from religious faith, to psychic mediums, to the awe with which audiences react to performers such as Stuart Lightbody, who rattles off impossible feats at a dazzling pace in this well structured show.
Lightbody, who comes across like a more chipper Derren Brown, argues throughout the show that even the most puzzling phenomena have rational explanations, and that we should always, without exception, avoid the temptation of superstitious belief. It is refreshing to hear a performer acknowledge so frankly that his tricks are just that; whereas many magicians structure their shows in such a way as to cement the mystique as firmly as possible, Lightbody actively encourages us to keep an eye out for his deceptions.
Kicking off with some tried and tested card-based material, in which he demonstrates an extraordinary sleight of hand ability, he then moves on the heavy stuff of mind-reading. While the format of some sections will be known to magic aficionados (it is hard to believe, for example, that anyone isn’t familiar with the psychic properties of the number 37), it is all carried off with verve and precision. Lightbody’s sense of humour and affability come through as well, with a series of pointed one liners.
Before each trick, Lightbody gives a little introduction to tie what we are about to see into the overall theme, and at times, this is a little tenuous. The show as a whole almost takes the form of an essay, and some of the points are not especially well argued. It could certainly step up a level with a bit of script development.
The conclusion, however, illuminates Lightbody’s argument brilliantly. At the very beginning, he had swallowed an entire bottle of sleeping pills, checked by an audience member to verify they had not been tampered with. He finally brings this back up at the very end, revealing the reason he has not collapsed: they were homeopathic, which for Lightbody, makes them amongst the worst supernatural hogwash of modern life. Finally, he begs us not to give up looking for answers to the mysteries of the world, reasoning that as long as there are human minds there will always be mystery. It is an impassioned and infectious way to end a generally terrific show.