While it has become customary for magician scientist hybrid Kevin Quantum to enlist the aid of “volunteers” to act as lab assistants during his unconventional experiments conducted onstage, it is rare that he so explicitly engages that staple of the magical act for so many years, the glamorous assistant, yet Eyes Open | Eye Shut could not be accomplished without the contributions of Miss Direction.
The seating on the floor clinically divided and the observers masked, the surrounding balcony offers an alternative vantage point for the sold-out but reduced capacity crowd from which to gather the evidence of their senses, revealing – what? Secrets are hidden in plain sight from the outset; Quantum even asks for photographs to be taken so they can be checked later.
Some props familiar from earlier shows already on stage, test tubes of coloured sand and the bowl of water into which they will be mixed, the easels at the back of the stage give the impression of a demonstration, a lecture, and indeed he will explain his process and how we will be fooled – and he will indeed proceed to fool us, fully aware of his intent.
Starting with his coloured sands, blue, green and pink, presented with flourish, it’s an old favourite: they are mixed then separated with only bare hands, charmed out of solution back into their individual identities; is it in defiance of science, or a careful application of the properties of the constituents which he has taken advantage of?
Asking for complicity in his teleportation antics, the audience are fully willing and ready to be entertained; could we cheat? Of course, but invited to be as much as a part of the show as Quantum himself, why would we? Inside the performance, we can learn about our weaknesses and biases, our brains evolved to focus on sudden movement or loud noises, even the propensity of a tensed muscle to tire a tool in the right setting.
Midway through the run of Eyes Open | Eyes Shut, Quantum is assured and enjoying himself, using no big props such as those of his appearance on Britain’s Got Talent, every trick performed hands-on in the moment, money out of thin air, the Ace of Spades a mark coming back to haunt the audience, compelling them to dance, the final consultation of the “before and after” photographs confirming that even the most attentive can miss the obvious until it is pointed out; for all we see, our eyes may as well have been shut.