By Nidhi Kumari
‘Gentlemen of Deceit’, naam toh suna hi hoga? They had cast a spell on you, the first time you saw them at Australia’s Got Talent. The trio comprising of Luke Hocking, Alex de la Rambelje and Vyom Sharma are all geared to weave magic on stage in Melbourne and Sydney, once again.
Ahead of the magical event Vyom Sharma, the Indian-origin doctor who fell in love with magic, tells us about his passion, the formation of Gentlemen of Deceit, his favourite tricks and more. Excerpts:
- What is ‘magic’ in your words?
The best answer I have heard is “magic is the aesthetic exploration of mystery”
To me, however, magic is the sensation of wonder you experience when you witness something that seems impossible.
- A Doctor and a magician. How did a guy studying medicine fall in love with a contrasting world of magic and tricks?
I had never seen great magic up close, until medical school!
I was in first year of uni when a fellow medical student showed me an amazing magic trick.
And I fell in love.
At the beginning it was utter infatuation and obsession – I felt like I would have gone to the ends of the earth to work out how these tricks were done.. I couldn’t understand why other people weren’t as curious as me!
It was only when I was able to access the secrets of magic, and meet other like minded young magicians, that I became deeply passionate about the art.
The two worlds are contrasting, sure. But there are similarities. Both the doctor and magician are seen as a central character who is expected to ‘fix’ things.
Whereas the reality is, the inner workings of their craft are far more gritty and mechanised than it first seems.
- Tell us about your association with Alex and Luke. How did ‘Gentlemen of Deceit’ come into being?
I met Luke and Alex at local magic clubs and shows! Here were two guys who were also, young and into magic, but more importantly saw magic from a similar view.
All three of us saw the ridiculous side of magic, but also the deeply astonishing side of it too.
Luke suggested we put on a show for the Melbourne Comedy Festival, and we thought – what the heck, we’ll get at least 30 people coming along.
Little did we know we’d do several shows with 100’s of people in.
But never would we have imagined that our friendship would have lead us up to full scale shows at Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne, and the Sydney Opera House.
- What is the best part about having two other magicians performing alongside you?
Having someone to laugh with, through failures and successes. I honestly don’t know how solo magicians do it – there are so many highs and lows when performing, you really need someone to pick you up, but also ground you. And I think we do that very well.
There are moments back stage, when you know you should be very very nervous, but when you have your best friends there with you, supporting you through every moment, it is very buoying.
- Does the thought “what if a trick fails?” ever scare you?
Always. But now that I’m experienced, even though my tricks might fail, the audience just doesn’t know it.
A lot of the craft of the magician is steering things in a different direction if they start to fail. And when this is done well, the audience can’t even tell what was intended as a joke, or what was a genuine mistake.
But it is easily the scariest part of being a magician. I’ve woken up from many nightmares where I dreamt of me messing up a great trick!
- Which illusion leaves your audiences the most baffled?
There is a trick we will do in the Athenaeum Theatre in Melbourne in a few weeks that I think will floor even the biggest cynics!
Basically we will ask someone in the audience what they would do if they won the lottery. That person will then say what they want…
And we will make it happen, instantly.
It is a further development of the trick that we did in the Grand Finals of Australia’s Got Talent.
- Out of the many tricks you perform, which one is your personal favourite?
My favourite trick is hard to pick….
One of my favourites is the one that got us on to Australia’s Got Talent – where we borrow an audience member’s shoe, and start to pull all kinds of things out of it – rocks, tennis balls, a bread stick! And it ends with a big surprise. We will definitely do it in our upcoming show – it’s a crowd favourite!
But probably my favourite trick is one I will retire after these upcoming shows. It is a trick with some tissue paper balls. It sounds really simple right? How could something like that fit in a big budget magic show?
You’ll have to come along to the show to see the trick, but basically, one person in the audience gets totally fooled by the trick, while hundreds of other people are in on the secret.
Believe me, it is one of the highlights of the show. When it goes well, sometimes the entire theatre is roaring and howling with laughter and gasps… we often have to tell people to calm down!
- What is the most difficult or challenging part while performing magic on stage?
Hardest part of performing magic on stage is making it look easy! You have to really engage people, smile, project fun, while under the surface work very very hard to make the trick work!
And also, managing unruly audience members is really tough. There is no other art form where a poorly behaved audience member can have such a disastrous effect on the show!
- How do you think technology has brought about change in the way you incorporate your magic tricks?
As magicians we have to make sure we do tricks that aren’t easily explained by technology. When people come up with theories for tricks, one of the first things they will say are “you used cameras, or a tv screen, or a remote controled gizmo”.
And we have to make sure that our presentation subtly dismisses that as an explanation.
This is a big point – because there are many quite magical technologies that can do amazing things!
And we have to generate astonishment usually not with their aid, but despite them!
- What sets the ‘Gentlemen of Deceit’ apart?
That we take our magic very seriously. But not ourselves.
We never really set out to be comedy magicians, but I think our personalities really come out.
By the same token, it can be very tempting to just commit ourselves to making people laugh, but deep down, all we really want to do is astonish people.
When people come to our shows I think they are genuinely surprised at how entertaining the show was, apart from the impossible seeming magic.
- You guys will be performing in Melbourne this August. What is instore for the audience?
We will be working very hard to make this show one of the most memorable performances of magic that audiences have ever seen.
Now, that’s a big statement – but we really mean it. We have poured our lives into this show, and we will be packing in truckloads of surprises, and a lot of audience involvement to immerse people in a totally spellbound experience.
There will be quite a few tricks where people might watch the start of a trick thinking “I’ve seen this one”, before things take a drastic turn…
I think any new audiences will be genuinely shocked by how much wholesome fun our shows are. It feels cliché to say this, but when we look into our audience from the stage, we see everyone from cool 20 somethings, kids and retirees. There is something for every one in this show.
- Do you have any advice for aspiring magicians?
You should watch a lot of magic. A lot. And observe what the audience responds to – the most powerful skill you can develop as a magician is sensing what type of tricks and presentations audiences enjoy.
Oh, and practice!
- What are your future plans?
It’s hard to focus beyond our big shows in Melbourne in Sydney – because it’s what we’ve been dreaming of for so many years!
It would be amazing to get some producers on board so we can tour the show to even more locations around Australia and internationally.
GENTLEMEN OF DECEIT – THREE TIMES THE MAGIC
Melbourne The Athenaeum
Saturday 27 August 2.30pm and 7pm
Sydney Playhouse, Sydney Opera House
Saturday 15 October and Sunday 16 October 2.30pm and 7pm
Bookings: gentlemenofdeceit.com; sydneyoperahouse.com