Any place that requires me to enter through a doorway concealed behind a bookcase instantly has me besotted. So when we were ushered down the wide staircase of the stately Cape Town Club in Queen Victoria Street and guided into an unassuming corner last night, I started to smile. And when our fishnet and feathered hostess swung open the dusty old bookcase shelves I beamed and suppressed a squeak.
Husband Person and I stepped into the dim underground space – thick smoke and speakeasy-esque music churned between shadowy forms. Cape Town Magic Club. My kind of place, my kind of people. Unable to contain my excitement I took a little time to explore. Host and producer Marcel Oudejans greeted us and apologised for the over-abundance of smoke, the result of a smoke machine left unattended a minute or so too long. But it added to the ambiance, and if we’re being honest, the odd blind bump into a stranger or three just adds to the adventure.
I fell immediately in love with the velvet-cushioned antique chairs and tenderly stroked an old credenza over near the bar. A side room has the most fabulous chandelier hung with Bic pens. So clever. Although a little threadbare – I’m wondering if it’s down to other guests making off with a souvenir…
As we took our seats in the small theatre I had a sudden hankering for a glass of whisky – it’s just that kind of space so I ducked out to the bar and hurried back with two tumblers clinking, just in time for the start of the show.
Oudejans makes for a welcoming host as he sets the tone for the evening. His banter straddles the line between cheesy (and groan-inducing) and adult (and err, groan-inducing). After Oudejans had fanned the giggles and wonderment a little he introduced Ryan Jones who jumped straight in with a collection of card tricks. The thing with magicians is that audience participation is pretty much a given. And the thing with the cosy Cape Town Magic Club is that there’s really no place to hide. So go ready to be whipped into the spotlight as an assistant (sequined leotard optional). With not a suspicious box or menacing saw in sight, it felt relatively safe. Although I’m still trying to get over the last time I was called onto a stage by a magician and almost had my hand impaled on a 20cm spike. There was none of that violence here though, so I was almost a little disappointed I wasn’t selected. Instead, I sipped my whisky and watched as closely as I could.
I love magic. I love to be tricked. I don’t care how much of it is real and how much illusion. I want to believe. Make coins disappear before my eyes, pluck a mystery card from thin air, read someone’s thoughts – and I’m sold. I was not disappointed last night. There is, however, one trick/illusion I’ve seen done a number of times on the local circuit. And, as usual, I don’t care how it’s done – it still freaks me out EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Other guys have done it with needles and thread. Jones took it one, horrifying, step further and did it with razor blades. I can’t even.
Next up was the delightfully unhinged Steve Sandomierski. His routine is totally my jam. It’s all a bit mental. Manic laughs, punny jokes and perfect timing. From gulping down balloons and questionable balloon animal skills, to disappearing coins and card tricks he had me transfixed and laughing loudly. Close-up magic is always fun and I will definitely be keeping an eye out for his future gigs.
Can I just take a moment to talk about the audience? There are few things worse than a dry audience. (Apart from the one guy who literally fell asleep and slipped off his chair in the FRONT ROW of the NewSpace Theatre one night…) I’ve seen audiences where performers have had to work ridiculously hard for each and every single half-hearted smirk. Audiences where even if you had to explain a gag with an illustrated slide show and words of one syllable they still wouldn’t get it. But last night? Last night’s audience was something special. I love the gawkiness of a “volunteer” as they stand on stage, knowing something’s up, knowing their mind is about to be blown, half hoping the trick fails and half hoping it succeeds, and wondering how it’s done, but also wanting to keep the mystery in tact. The sparkling eyes, slack jaw and disbelieving slow shakes of the head.
Four people stood out for me last night and made the night so much more fantastic. First up were elder gents Les and Bob. Beaming-faced Les with hands clasped firmly to this thighs, and Bob with his lush moustache, hands on knees, staring carefully at the magician’s hands, just a slight twitch of his jaw every few moments. They were a delight and wonderfully game participants. Then there were David and Jozi, who seemed to be the very embodiment of the excitement a magic show conjures. They grinned, gaped incredulously, chuckled nervously and blushed at the more risqué jokes. I felt like we were destined to become best friends. When I headed back through the bookcase and away from the magic, they were standing with Sandomierski at the bar, bubbling over with glee as the magician knotted a tie with nothing more than a quick flick of his wrist. I have this imaginary cupboard where I put people I adore (that’s a post for another day) – and I’ve definitely made room for them.
Oudejans and his team have created something truly special and it’s well worth making the time to pop in. Monday Night Magic is every Monday (well, obviously) at 7pm and again at 9pm. Season two runs until October 3, and the line-up includes the likes of Oudejans, Larry Soffer, Alexander May, Olwethu Dyantyi, Sandomierski, Jones and Greg Gelb. Don’t miss out, book here.