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Vietnamese magic shows bore audience with repetition

Magician Tran Anh Dung performs with a model at the 2018 National Magic Festival.
Magician Tran Anh Dung performs with a model at the 2018 National Magic Festival.

High expectations built up on a national magic festival over the weekend but it either failed to impress or disappointed the audience with not many captivating performances.

The 2018 National Magic Festival organized by the Vietnam Theater Artists Association in cooperation with its partner, the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Culture and Sports, opened in Ho Chi Minh City on Saturday and closed on Monday.

The third edition of the magic festival included 36 performances, of which about two-thirds were from art troupes in the host city.

The Vietnam Circus Federation was the only representative of the northern Vietnamese art troupes while the remaining participants come from seven other provinces.

Although it was expected to attract dozens of both veteran and young magicians, the two-day event failed to offer the audience something other than doves, walking sticks, flowers and handkerchiefs, which are usually seen in any magic shows that they have become boring.

Most of the magicians performing at the festival used old tricks such as turning a handful of handkerchiefs into a flock of doves, making a woman appear out of thin air on an empty chair covered by a large cloth, and cutting a person in half.

Some participants even came to the national event with meager performances that were not prepared with thorough ideas. Some even made obvious mistakes on the stage.

Several performances ended in the confusion and “That’s it?” of the audience.

Nguyen Viet Duy, a member of the Ho Chi Minh City Magic Club, told  that he “came to learn” but was disappointed by the stunts at the festival.

“I was pretty sad when seeing that several performances were not carefully prepared and the magicians were so inexperienced,” Duy said.

“I think that in the next editions, the festival’s organizers should evaluate the performances in advance to ensure quality for such a national event,” he suggested.

Many difficulties, no inventories

Among the limited number of magicians that were able to make a difference at the Ho Chi Minh City festival, Nguyen Viet Duy stunned the audience with an interactive magic performance.

Duy chose to communicate with the audience with his good English, taking the lead by inviting them to the stage and guiding them from one surprise to another.

According to Duy, one of the reasons why the magic performances were so disappointing is a lack of equipment.

“In Vietnam, there are very few establishments that produce devices used in magic gigs,” he said.

“But they’re not professional and charge high prices so magicians have no choice but to rent [the equipment],” Duy explained.

“Yet the magicians then have little time to get used to the props before performing onstage,” the Ho Chi Minh City Magic Club’s member added.

“That’s why they stick to doves, flowers, umbrellas.”

Echoing Duy’s opinion, Nguyen Van Cuong in the highland province of Lam Dong said that a performing device costs about VND50-70 million (US$2,150-3,010) while a veteran magician like him has to work in the circus field for 20 years to reach his current income range of VND30-40 million ($1,290-1,720) per month.

Cuong shared his understanding for “young magicians with a VND5-7 million [$215-301] income struggling to invest in equipment to create more captivating performances.”

Both Duy and Cuong, therefore, advised that “magicians on a tight budget should focus on the storyline of their performances and make their style different in order to avoid boring the audience.”