THE last few years have revealed to many of us that maths and science can be exciting, interesting, even fun. Marcus du Sautoy, Brian Cox and his sidekick Robin Ince and others have brought complex ideas into our homes through the power of radio and we love it.
Similarly a new generation of illusionists and a couple of very good films have made magic a popular art-form.
So Rhys Morgan and Robert West are tapping into a rich mine of audience interest – but unlike the worldfamous stars they are not beamed into our computers or sitting rooms, so that we cannot entirely trust them since we are all wise to digital trickery.
Mr Morgan and Mr West, who in a previous life, before Penn and Teller, were maths and science teachers, are the real deal. They stand in front of us, in a little village hall, and invite children, men and women from the audience to assist in their Parlour Tricks, which is currently on an Artsreach tour in Dorset.
The show is very much in the Victorian style and the two magicians look the part, Mr Morgan with his suave charm and capacious gestures, Mr West with his dapper elegance and sharp eyes. They describe themselves as “time-travellers and all-round spiffing chaps” and there is just the slightest hint of the louche world of the music hall around them. In a nice way.
The first half of the show is proper conjuring tricks, the sort of disappearances and deceptions that make the audience Ooh and Aah and murmur “How did they do that?” They are witty and engaging and we all laugh a lot.
But it is in the second half that the show moves to another dimension and we are drawn into a world that we hardly comprehend, although we recognise what is happening and some of us are thinking “Sherlock.”
Mr West is put through his mathematical paces in a blindfold, with a series of memory tests that leave the audience – including the two volunteers on stage armed with their smartphone-calculators – simply agog. And then Mr Morgan explains … that Mr West has a memory west. And there’s that Sherlock moment!
Writing in the (now sadly missed) Independent some years ago, Chloe Cornish described Sherlock’s “crime-solving trick up his tweed sleeve: a ‘memory palace,’ crammed with knowledge about everything from chemical formulae to breeds of chicken. He sweeps about this mental space, coat flapping, opening doors and yanking out crucial bits of arcane information which somehow hold the key to solving the mystery. It’s the antithesis of the ‘google it” mentality, and it’s really, really cool.”
So that’s what is going on, but we were watching this a few feet in front of us – a man with a bandage wrapped round his face, physically straining to pull up the numbers in sequence, square roots, multiplied by each other and more.
It all adds up to a very enjoyable entertainment – this was Morgan and West’s second visit to Nether Compton and it was clear they will be warmly welcomed back any time they return to the Artsreach circuit with a new show.