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Mild mentalism: Peter Antoniou – Comedium at Mimetic 2013 (***)

It’s not often I review magic shows, but Mimetic 2013 has all sorts… And in this case, it meant I get to indulge in my fascination with mentalism as well, and although Antoniou is not quite as confident as he could be yet, he’s on the verge of being a really big star. A solid effort.

Peter Antoniou’s act is the classic “psychic” mentalist performance which magicians such as Derren Brown have popularised: balancing on the border between being a mystic and explaining how you aren’t with a hint of self-depricating awareness. There’s little original material here – it’s the classic waistcoated man getting answers from an audience through unknown means.

Antoniou claims that the show also has a comedy angle – but it really hasn’t. It’s not that he isn’t funny – he is charming, has a nice stage presence and a friendly character, but he isn’t rattling out one-liners or telling long, elaborate stories with a punch-line. Most of his tricks do have a comedic angle or twist, but it’s not complex and very little is different in relation to a standard magic show.

The problem here is two-fold: firstly, he’s not quite slick enough. Plenty of the tricks he pulls off with aplomb (including the always tricky rattling off of a lot of predictions in quick succession with eyes bound), but there’s one or two he gets wrong – and his Brown-esque “I’m-sort-of-explaining-how-I-do-things” is missing Brown’s twist where, at the end, his reveal is just part of another trick. This feel more like a series of tricks over a cohesive show.

Secondly, and more problematically, it’s nothing we haven’t seen before. Sure, there’s original twists on old tricks, but he never got the gasped reaction he wanted. The audience seemed almost blase and disinterested, not excited or bamboozled. It’s possible that Derren Brown’s proliferation has made old-fashioned mentalism a bit old hat, but I got the sense it was more that Antoniou needs to be more adventurous with his act. There’s no danger, no suspense – it’s all just a bit too chatty and nice.

But that shouldn’t detract from the beginnings of what could be great. He’s clearly a strong mentalist (which isn’t easy to learn), he now just needs to fine-tune the package in which he delivers it. I’d have liked more edge and more danger, but there’s 100 ways he could take the act – he just needs to choose one.


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