VISION: Back with New Tricks and Mind-boggling Illusions

A visual spectacle of disappearing (and reappearing) sports convertible and human bodies, VISION is the spectacular illusion show it promises to be.

Returning to the Esplanade Theatre after their sellout 2011 show, VISION‘s Lawrence and Priscilla Khong are back to delight and intrigue audiences in the mystical world of illusion-theatre. VISION production by Gateway Entertainment runs from 3rd to 12th July.

I must declare that I had been apathetic for a long time when it comes to illusions. The reason? I ‘was conned’ into learning amateurish illusion tricks from a secondary school senior for a hefty price of $15-$30 a trick! But VISION restored my faith in the art form. I will try to write this review without giving away too much – It’s no fun if you already know what tricks are going to be performed next, isn’t it?

The show opens with Priscilla winding up her imaginary ballerina doll. In her imagination, the dolls comes to life as she winds it up. Daddy Lawrence comes home and persuades daughter to go to bed. Priscilla isn’t going to do so unless daddy tells her an original story he made up. Daddy tells his story which storyline was really borrowed from another story ‘Where the Wild Things Are‘; a story mummy told young Priscilla when she was young. Priscilla questions daddy “Where’s mummy?” The two shared a sweet moment when daddy performs a magic trick with a yellow ball, telling young Priscilla that when she’s feeling alone, daddy will always there for her.

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Fast forward to the present, the duo is ‘performing live’ to the audiences. The duo performed a variety of illusions which also includes making a real BMW convertible appear on stage under the supervisory presence of four audience-witnesses on stage.

At present, Priscilla is as equally talented an illusionist as her father is and her frustrations boiled to the surface when Lawrence questions why she was distracted during the performance. Priscilla exploded, expressing her disappointment at her father for not being there for her, not visiting mummy’s grave and for always using magic tricks to pacify her when she can no longer be distracted by them.

Priscilla runs off into the ‘disappearing’ cage again and disappears again with Lawrence following close behind. Lawrence finds himself in Priscilla’s subconscious mind and performs a coin trick to appease the whacky characters within. Members of the audience were picked to throw ‘coins’ they found at their area into an empty cylinder held by Lawrence on stage which obviously becomes the mysterious coin-collecting apparatus. The story becomes really dark as crazy, joker-like manifestations of Priscilla’s hurts and bitterness threatens to destroy both Lawrence and Priscilla. Priscilla takes centre stage in her fantasy, Priscilla summons a masked, murderous ‘Creature’. who appears out of nowhere. The Creature unmasks itself, lo and behold, Priscilla is the Creature itself. Wasn’t she standing somewhere else?

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Of course, In a family-friendly theatrical show such as VISION, the ending must be a happy one. Lawrence eventually finds forgiveness and acceptance. The two escapes the alternate universe (or Priscilla’s subconscious mind, that I am not so certain about this anymore) and performs the closing trick to the ‘2nd part of their magic show’. As with every magic show, the last must always be the most mind-blowing one. The final act involving the BMW convertible from earlier was so mind-blowing that it left me quite stupefied to be frank.

Besides the mind-boggling illusions, VISION has a pretty neat storyline and pacing. Call it misdirection, mental illusion, play of lights or special props, VISION exceeded my expectations and kept me entertained throughout. I thought that the ‘simple’ magic yellow ball as plot device was pretty cool in contrast to the other more spectacular tricks. I like the ‘live audience’ scene where Lawrence and Priscilla were performed a Mise en abyme – performing a magic show in a magic show. It reminded me very much of the Hollywood film ‘Now You See Me‘ of a show within a show – very ingenious. In another scene, Lawrence enters Priscilla’s subconscious mind, into a quirky and enigmatic alternate world where dolls have a life of their own. That quirky world became eerier and horrifying as the ‘demons’ replaces quirky characters and dolls.

Lawrence must find a way to salvage the situation and save his daughter from that alternate universe before all is lost. In that regard, Lawrence had a pretty similar encounter to Alice (in Wonderland), who also enters an alternate universe through a rabbit hole where inquisitive creatures are soon replaced by sinister beings. While at the start, we are quite clear that Lawrence and Priscilla are both in her subconscious mind, that understanding becomes rather undefinable. Are they in her subconscious mind or are they in Inception?

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In that alternate universe, Priscilla transports Lawrence to his childhood days and had Lawrence perform the same yellow ball magic trick to the younger Lawrence. He tells the younger Lawrence that he has a feeling that Lawrence will become a ‘great magician someday’. Lawrence then recounts that that was the moment where he fell in love with magic. This creates a ‘problematic’ time-loop/predestination paradox where the events (and characters) of the past was impacted by the events (and characters) of the future through some form of ‘time travel’. This creates a self-fulfilling prophecy not unlike films like Donnie Darko, Predestination, Butterfly Effect, etc – where an older Lawrence has to return to the past to inspire his younger self to fall in love with magic, thus repeating the endless loop – the mistake of negating his family.

The not so good: I’m not very comfortable with the excessive use of red lights which definitely creates that nightmarish presence in Priscilla’s subconscious mind. Also, there seems to be a slight disconnect between young Priscilla and older Priscilla’s account of their mother’s passing. The lead characters are rich in layers and I wish they could develop Lawrence’s story further. The story reaches a dramatic climax but ‘lands’ abruptly in a happy ending. The disappearing and reappearing acts, levitation, the car trick et cetera were definitely well executed. But I wish we could see more variety instead of the staple disappearing acts in the show.

Other than that, I am sold on this show. VISION was indeed a spectacular visual spectacle with a pretty well-written story plot and well-timed pacing to ensure that audiences are entertained throughout the show. The VISION set was also extravagant, adding to the entire viewing experience. Lawrence, Priscilla and team clearly outdone themselves on this one. Despite similar storyline and tricks, VISION manages to reinvent themselves from their 2011 show, keeping the performance ‘fresh’.

Many thanks to VISION for the media invite. I thoroughly enjoyed myself and would recommend it to anyone and everyone looking to be entertained by pretty awesome illusions. RW

VISION 2015

Esplanade Theatre

Opens 3 to 12 July 2015

Singapore’s only professional illusionist duo Lawrence and Priscilla Khong will once again bring to the audience a world-class performance that promises to be even bigger and grander on all fronts than ever before.

Ticket Pricing: $28 – $118

Web Link: VISION 2015

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