No one wants to admit they’re stupid. But watching Ben Hart’s illusions you have only two options: admit he’s outwitted you, or believe in magic.
Whether he is making coins pass through a clear plastic table, random words appear inside walnuts, or catching a chosen card on the end of a sword, the title of his latest show is the most fitting description for the inevitable audience reaction: Wonder.
You wonder how he did it, and then you give up trying and just enjoy the show.
Magicians can have a tendency to pad their material with over-elaborate storytelling, but Hart omits the pomposity and instead presents a cheeky, impish persona that stays just the right side of smug.
Some of the most impressive tricks are not performed as great set pieces, but as small and intimate exercises that use borrowed (and therefore presumably unadulterated) items from the audience. Joining three metal rings is a magic classic; doing it with jewellery from the front row elevates it to a physics-defying level of witchcraft.
The superlative magic is a little let down by the threadbare set. The Playhouse is an intimate venue and Hart is clearly aiming for a simple presentation, but it showed where more thought had been put into the sound and lighting; the gaps let the atmosphere wane a little.
The handheld video camera (and particularly its light) was a necessary but intrusive evil for helping the whole audience see some of the more intricate tricks. Again, a little more planning could integrate this more satisfyingly.
The heart of the show though is an exceptional magician performing some remarkable, unfathomable, and dazzling tricks. Even if you see it, you won’t quite believe it.
Ben Hart returns to Norwich Playhouse on April 6.