The Vaults, London
If you could read my mind, you’d know that I’m a sceptic when it comes to the world of magic and mind-reading. But if you really could read my mind, you’d also know that there’s a tiny part of me that wants to believe, even though I know smokes and mirrors and something-or-other must be involved somehow.
Last year at the Vault Festival though, Philipp Oberlohr came as close as anyone has to converting me to the cause with his show Das Spiel. And the news that he was returning with a sequel of sorts – Das Fest – was a secret thrill that I was happy to indulge in (just as long as I didn’t get called on, something I completely forgot about as I got in early and found myself seated on the front row!)
And once again, I found myself completely tumbling for this captivating Austrian’s charm. Though the title may translate as The Party, the vibe to Das Fest is much more chilled, a laidback affair that is almost as much therapy session as it is a magic show. And while that may not appeal to everyone, the gentle immersion that Oberlohr cultivates feels special indeed.
Dipping in and out of role-playing as Sigmund Freud and ruminating on dream-states, the good stuff begins once the audience finds the pencil and paper provided under the seats and as instructed, writes down either a memory or a dare. Sealed up in envelopes and tossed into upturned umbrellas, Oberlohr then goes about the mind-boggling business of somehow divining that which we have divulged.
And his understated approach works because of the nature of those revelations. Encouraged by his softly-spoken Viennese accent, or perhaps his nifty way with a set of braces, many of us were unafraid to get personal. And in his gentle hands, teasing out moments of blissful happiness (in terms of the memories) or tearjerking sincerity (with regards to one heartbreakingly impossible dare) becomes a call to action in living your best self, in being unafraid to try and turn dreams into realities (and thus into memories that you can use the next time you see Philipp Oberlohr performing). And you really should.