Rêveurs Définitifs in Montreal: A Surrealistic Magic Show


Great magic gives its spectators the experience of dreaming even though they’re awake. Rêveurs Définitifs, a “magie nouvelle” show playing in Montreal until July 30, achieves this. The show is a surrealistic experience that both magicians and the general public should catch before it leaves town.

Cie 14:20, directed by Raphaël Navarro and Clément Debailleul, is a company that has been mixing magic and other circus disciplines primarily in France since the year 2000. While their “magie nouvelle” (new magic) shows have experienced significant success in that country, their work is less known in North America. It is therefore a rare and special opportunity to see emerging circus / magic stars, like Yann Frisch, Etienne Saglio and others, performing wildly abstract numbers in this show.

***Plot spoiler alert: In the paragraphs below, I will comment on the contents of the show. Though I won’t be revealing any secrets, I might spoil some surprises for those who have not yet seen the show. I suggest you watch it before reading what follows.***

The performance is a sort of insomniac cabaret with a soundtrack by Canadian musician Patrick Watson. It begins with the dancing of Ingrid Estarque, in this opening scene she does some contemporary popping and locking, that transitions nicely into a suspension illusion. It brings me joy, and I hope Danny Cole would also be happy, to see a dancer execute this magic effect with such grace.

French comedian Éric Antoine, a Just For Laughs comedy magic regular, follows with what is best described as a parody of a stage manipulation act. Antoine is definitely funny and this act has a certain cartoonish likeability. That being said, the dove magic is a real disappointment for those familiar with the technical prowess of comedy magic greats like Johnny Thompson. There was also a moment, in the show I watched, when the method of a magically animated object was obviously revealed. There was an audible groan from the audience during this uncomfortable mistake. None of us wanted the spell of the illusion to be broken and, for a few moments, it definitely was.

The magic of Etienne Saglio plunged spectators back into dreamland for the next two acts. Saglio’s flying object work is so excellent that it deserves to be written about in relation to Maskelyne, Kellar, Blackstone Sr. and other greats. The number with the mannequin and the flying ghosts that multiply and attack a sword-swinging performer is downright brilliant. This was my favorite piece in the show: a demented and magical tragedy. That’s a rare accomplishment.

Next is Yann Frisch’s virtuosic combination of clown, juggling and magic. This is the cups and balls routine that won him the Grand Prix at FISM in 2012. It’s even better now. Frisch has added a number of crafty touches. His character work is captivating and utterly deceptive. I’m sure that others may have made this observation before, but Yann is clearly on the Juan Tamariz path of greatness: a world class combination of clown and magic.

It’s nice to see the influence of Lennart Green and Dani DaOrtiz on Frisch’s card work too. He teams up with Éric Antoine to perform three close-up card effects. After a few false ribbon spread starts in the performance I saw, the magic was good and the duo had the audience in stitches.

Dancer Ingrid Estarque returns with an enchanting combination of dancing and levitation. After this act, a comic interlude with Calista Sinclair (silk to egg) and Éric Antoine serves as an introduction to an excellent, digital adaptation of Pepper’s Ghost. Cie 14:20, Antoine and Sinclair all deserve high praise for this smart combination of digital and analogue illusion choreography. Echoes of the old and new magic work done by Pepper and Tobin, Kalle Nio, Ville Walo and others can be felt here. Navarro’s directing is very smart in this scene.

Reveurs concludes with a final dance by Estarque. She strikes various poses, each of which leaves an ethereal afterimage onstage. These traces, along with any hope most spectators would have of understanding how the illusions are created, are erased with her final movement downstage. This is an important show to see. For music fans, I should mention that at some point Patrick Watson gets up from his orchestral niche to play a roaming and intimate acoustic song. He’s a pro. For those of you who cannot attend Reveurs, for whatever reason, I hope my description offers some commentary that is absent in the rather brief reviews published by the mainstream press.

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