Sydney Festival Live Review: Poof! Secrets of a Magician proves James Galea is a card boasting humour that is far from sleight

Magic is so often about secrets, smoke and mirrors, but James Galea also adds a dash of silliness to the mix. The hip youngster projects a cool and calm exterior that is so charming. He also has an irreverent sense of humour; his tongue is placed firmly in cheek. In Poof! Secrets of a Magician he conjures up a heady mix of comedy and music, fashioning it into an eye-popping cabaret of wizardry.

It’s great to see Galea reclaim the derogatory term, “Poof” for the title of this show. In Australia it is a loaded term about one’s sexual orientation yet in the U.S. it can be a light-hearted one about magic. Galea actually divides his time between the U.S. and his hometown of Sydney. He is gay and is cheeky as he shares this fact. He offers a faux-coming-out scene to his parents and proudly proclaims, “I am a magician!”

This show has some high production values. This is not just some hokey guy in a cape pulling a rabbit out of a hat. The opening included confetti cannons and cards spilling across the stage. Eat your heart out Flaming Lips! For each of Galea’s tricks, a camera is there filming things and projecting it onto a large screen that is centre stage. This is an excellent addition to the show, which makes it easier to watch the tricks. You will still be left scratching your head at how he managed to pull all these things off.

A case in point is his wonderful trick: 673 King Street. He has performed this on Ellen’s show and it has since gone viral. Seeing this live is worth the price of admission alone. Galea not only recalls a long monologue about a night out, but he also manages to produce a perfectly-ordered set of cards even though they seem to have been mixed up more times than a five-year-old playing with a Rubik’s cube.

Unfortunately, on opening night there was a card trick that went bad because the participant from the audience forgot the one she’d chosen. Galea was unfazed and used this to segue into talking about when things go wrong. One of his most disastrous tricks was as a young magician at a convention and was captured on video tape. This was a long bit because he told the story and then showed the visuals. It included a box that went awry, an uncontained fire, and an innocent duck. Quack.

This show was a rather personal one. Galea delivered songs and reminisced about once working as a kid’s party clown. He made a delightful balloon animal. While this was revelatory and intimate as Galea shared pieces of his history, you couldn’t say the same things about his tricks. No one walked away knowing how he managed to execute his magic and make it seem so effortless. They did however, learn that Galea is a master at sleight of hand.

There were some moments in this show that were reminiscent of Em Rusciano’s recent comedy cabaret. There was a colourful unicorn tossed around the audience for pick people out for questions. The answers then appeared on a piece of paper from a box that had been suspended above the stage. Galea had lots of music and not to mention some dancing penises on video and stage. This was like Rusciano and her dancing vaginas. If you’re easily offended then Poof! is probably not the show for you. A case in point: He has a song called “All Psychics are C**ts”.

Poof! was an energetic and entertaining show from our very own Wizard of Oz. Galea delivered punchy songs and some enigmatic magic, though there was room for more of the latter during this one hour show. This was a night that ultimately offered up a nice mix of tricks and treats for us all.


Poof! Secrets of a Magician plays as part of Sydney Festival until January 26. For more information and tickets please head HERE.

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