Theater review: Playing The Hand, a virtual magic show by Singapore’s youngest illusionist duo, Lifestyle News

We may never have received our letters from Hogwarts, but there is a part of us that still believes in some sort of everyday magic. The telepathic thrill of a friend expressing exactly what you’re thinking; the miracle of a helping hand or an inspiring spark that appears when you least expect it.

And it’s the kind of spell that takes center stage in Playing The Hand, a virtual magic show from illusionist duo Darren Tien and Jerryl Tan. Playing live on Zoom from August 6-15, their show strives to spark more inspiration than illusion, taking us on an interactive ride through their personal experiences.

At just 27 and 25 years old respectively, Darren and Jerryl rose through the ranks by performing street tours to perform at companies like Mandarin Orchard, Marina Bay Sands and Singapore Airlines.

The duo first met through a mutual friend a few years ago – and thanks to their shared passion for illusion, they were best friends at first sight. Becoming partners in crime in 2018, they trained under local legend JC Sum and charmed crowds from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

Like many theater companies in the time of Covid-19, they are now moving the magic online. After their debut show Zoom Beyond Virtual last year, their duo are back as part of Esplanade’s Flipside 2021 festival. Playing The Hand takes the theatrics up a notch with their mishmash of storytelling and sorcery, directed by veteran playwright Dwayne Lau.

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These days, the duo are perfecting a brand of magic that’s less deceptive, more personal. Set in their own living room, Playing The Hand is their budding attempt to go beyond entertainment to make an impact, and it translates into a wealth of anecdotes drawn from their own lives.

There are familiar Singaporean stories of missing out on their ‘A’ level, struggling with conservative parents and following their dreams, mixed with feel-good stories of their stage adventures (let’s just say there are tipsy cougars involved).

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In other words, don’t expect a dazzling spectacle – more often than not, the sleight of hand serves as the story’s punctuation mark. The duo pull off a sprinkling of standard sorcery with coins and cards, transformation tricks with a local twist – think pok me – and even a nifty teleportation act.

But what really drives the show is their motivational message — they hope, says Jerryl, “to inspire people to pursue their passions and step out of their comfort zone.”

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There are plenty of chances for the audience to play a part in the show, starting with a mystery parcel delivered to your door – a handy kit with 3D glasses and other interactive tools. Expect a handful of fun telepathic tricks, though they’re set in extended show-and-tell segments – we’re invited to share everything from our own goofy memories to travel dreams too.

Their real achievement here, perhaps, is less about magic and more about evoking a connection between people, even through the screen. In our Covid-isolated, Zoom-mediated times, this might just be its own kind of everyday magic.

Playing The Hand runs from August 6-15, 2021 via Zoom. Tickets are priced at $30.

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This article was first published in City Nomads.

Brian L. Hartfield