I Hate Rabbits | James Galea

I Hate Rabbits | James GaleaAustralian Magician of the Year, James Galea, brings his acclaimed production, I Hate Rabbits, to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

The title, I Hate Rabbits, we are assured, is not a reflection of Galea’s true feelings toward fluffy bunnys but rather stems from his desire to break away from the stereotypical, abracadabra, rabbit-out-of-a-hat clichés often associated with stage magicians.

The show opens with a shaky, grainy short promotional film, in which Galea establishes his street cred by performing card & coin tricks in dingy doorways and on city corners to… well… no-one in particular. Before long, the man himself bursts onto the stage like a rock-star, to a suitably grungy accompaniment, geeing up the audience and, true to the press-release, dressed in his ‘trademark’ t-shirt, jeans and sneakers.

What follows is a mash up of live and pre-recorded video, rock music segues and plenty of audience interaction. It was Galea’s gift for ‘close-up’ magic that first brought him to the attention of the magic world and in I Hate Rabbits this is highlighted and amplified by the use of live video - a camera is trained on Galea’s hands throughout the show, and projected onto a video screen while he performs the various card and shell tricks. One audience member signs her name to a card to identify it as unique, only to see it disappear and re-appear in unlikely places; a $50 note transforms into a $5 note while we blink; a ‘sceptic’ from the audience impossibly finds the card he selected in a sealed envelope.

Without question Galea works the audience well, has some nice patter and comeback lines to keep us all in check and has energy to burn. He has a genuinely likeable (if slightly confusing) stage presence - at times, he appears as the smooth, slick, card shark - while at others, he’s downright goofy, jumping up and down and mini-clapping with glee, stating “I’m excited because I know what’s going to happen” - which can either be kind of endearing or slightly annoying depending on your point of view.

Without wishing to downplay his energy or to take anything away from his very considerable skill, and in spite of his PR firm’s insistence on just how unique and cool he is, the show itself is actually pretty conservative. If you’ve seen any magician/illusionist in recent times you’ve probably seen lots of the tricks, or a variation of them, before. Card tricks, ‘I know what you’re thinking’ tricks, pea and thimble sleight of hand, all performed, it must be said, expertly. Make no mistake - this guy really does know his stuff. But besides the finale - a highly original sequence and a genuinely gob-smacking ‘how did he do that?’ moment - to the lay-person, there’s not a lot in this 50-minute show which could truly be said to be new.

To be fair, there are lots of ‘how did he do that?’ moments - he’d hardly be doing his job were it otherwise - and just because you may have seen a trick before, doesn’t lessen the thrill of seeing it performed live and of being deceived by your very own eyes. But much of the publicity/hyperbole surrounding Galea actively seeks to portray him as being something completely unique and different from other magicians, a trait not entirely evident in this show.

Galea certainly has the talent befitting “Australia’s Magician of the Year” and the energy, charisma and movie-star good looks to be a major celebrity in the magic world. I Hate Rabbits, his first stage show, is certainly an enjoyable one, and well worth seeing if only for the sheer level of skill on display.

Soft Tread presents
James Galea
I Hate Rabbits

Venue: Forum Theatre - Upstairs | Cnr Flinders & Russell Sts, Melbourne
Dates: 2 - 26 April
Times: Tue-Sat 9.15pm, Sun 8.15pm
Duration: 60 minutes
Tickets: Full $30, Concession $20
Bookings: Ticketek 132 849 | at the door

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