Illusionism and sleight-of-hand have amazed people for hundreds of years, so you have to wonder how modern magicians can keep things fresh and interesting. Raymond Crowe: The Unusualist is one of those skilled few who manage to balance a respect for tradition with a love of experimentation.
Adelaide’s own Raymond Crowe has been performing his unique brand of illusionism for 20 years and, in that time, has seen immense success on platforms such as Australia’s Got Talent and The Royal Variety Show, and in live shows at Caesar’s Palace in Las Vegas and on The Late Show with David Letterman. Crowe has even had the honour of performing for the Queen, received standing ovations from fellow magicians and has been invited to perform and lecture at the World Congress of Magic in Italy.
It’s likely though, that you’ll know him for his most famous act, a shadow-puppet rendition of the Louis Armstrong song, What a Wonderful World, which (even though I’ve seen it way too many times) still amazes me.
Crowe, of course, performed this famous act in his current show (directed by Doug Tremlett), to the wonder of a crowd filled with magic-lovers of all ages. His wide variety of skits, illusions and gags delighted everyone from the moment he walked on stage.
He began in earnest with a twisted ventriloquism act using people instead of puppets. It’s a very impressive act, as he manages to predict with incredibly accuracy the reactions of those he brought on stage. Even when they didn’t act the way he thought they would, Crowe manages to go with the flow and adapt without missing a beat. My only gripe is that the whole “baby-voiced man” and “gruff-voiced woman” overstayed its welcome just a little.
Crowe also performed other classic acts by legendary illusionists from all over the world, including his rendition of magic salt and the shadow puppet performance Rabbit and the Wolf. A piece he called The Collector was one of the most simple, yet effective, pieces in the show. He used a fan to make paper butterflies dance out of the pages of a book, seemingly bringing these little scraps of colourful paper to life.
Crowe definitely knows how to appeal to audiences, young and old. One of the sweetest moments of the show was when he brought a young girl on stage to challenge her to a bubble-blowing contest. He let her win, of course! This little act just proved that Crowe doesn’t just have skill, but also a lot of heart.
The Unusualist is one of Adelaide’s (if not Australia’s) greatest treasures. Raymond Crowe definitely has that x-factor that you need to be an effective performer, but also that little bit of eccentricity that you need to be a truly great one.
Reviewed by James Rudd
Venue: Her Majesty’s Theatre, 58 Grote Street,
Season: 15 November 2014 only