By Christopher Douglas
The first performance of this year's Toronto Fringe, magic show Soaring Above Reality, launched the annual Fringe Kids event, staged this year at the George Ignatieff Theatre.
A three-time Guinness World Record holder, illusionist Lucas Wilson leads his young audience through a series of magic tricks that include a straitjacket escape, levitation of both people and objects, linking rings (with a twist) and a box that shrinks his assistant Kelly Defilla.
The tricks are somewhat standard on the magic circuit - though well performed - leaving the charm of the showman performing the illusions to win over the audience and make the show unique. Unfortunately, Wilson often comes off as the long-haired "boy next door" who wows you with his skill and not his personality - potentially because he was still reading what a Toronto audience is like as the show begins its run here. Wilson plays the show fairly low-key and recites a few formulaic banter-based jokes to get the kids in the audience (remember, this is a Fringe Kids show) on his side. Only as his climatic escape was being set up did the illusionist's energy pick up to make the crowd sit on the edge of our seats.
A somewhat strange title, Soaring Above Reality never references its own name, only involves one silly moment of time travel and two brief acts regarding floating. Based on the tricks employed here, a title regarding escape may have been more fitting.
Being a lover of stories, I felt that if Wilson had used a narrative thread to connect the acts together, it may have been a more engaging show, creating a stronger sense of momentum, as he built up from smaller illusions to more dangerous large-scale tricks.
That said, the kids loved the spectacle and the show reminded me why I fell in love with magic at a young age, too: in the moment that trick comes along when I can't quite figure it out, I always know that the performer has me. Wilson's audience volunteers at the first performance were smiling but shy while the rest of the kids in the darkened crowd cheered on each illusion, clearly taken by his skill.
Maybe it's not the most colourful magic show you'll ever see, but Soaring Above Reality flies onto anyone's list as a recommendation for fun.
Info and tickets for all Toronto Fringe shows can be found at fringetoronto.com