Arts online Review

Review: Dream by Kyle Ravin

Making sense of dreams with the help of a little magic.

Over the course of the pandemic, Zoom magic shows aren’t unheard of. But what sets local magician Kyle Ravin apart then, is that he uses a single overarching storyline to present his new digital show Dream, drawing us into his magical world to show off his bag of tricks.

Playing for one night only in June, Dream is an innovative take on the Zoom magic show format by making use of the platform’s capabilities, rather than feel constrained by its limitations. Framed by a narrative where Kyle awakens in his dream world, throughout the entire performance, a second camera shows footage of Kyle still asleep in the real world while ‘dream Kyle’ performs for us, helping us believe in the fictitious set-up he’s created.

Under dream logic, Kyle is able to calmly accept that he’s in the same room as all of us audience members, and also uses these nebulous sets of rules to explain how he’s able to perform all his supernatural feats. It’s not long however, before he realises that he’ll need to figure out what the dream world wants from him, if he can even hope to escape.

It’s interesting how Kyle performs the show entirely in his own room, an innocuous setting that we can easily take for granted. That’s precisely why we feel much more amazed each time he shows us an act, seemingly conjuring objects from beyond the frame (strategically placed just out of the camera’s sight), or even playing with our perspective by using a Zoom video background to replicate his actual room, with a twist.

The acts Kyle performs aren’t necessarily new; familiar tricks include pulling an infinite number of cards from impossible places, costume quick change, and levitation. But for even the most doubtful of viewers will find it hard to resist Kyle’s natural charm and skill. Oozing charismas and confidence, Kyle is a natural host and uses quick wit and has such a casual way of performing that makes it seem oh-so-easy, no doubt the result of years of practice.

While Dream‘s storyline may be a little thin, what works is how Kyle uses it as a platform to introduce his own personal anecdotes, making him a much more down-to-earth character with struggles audience members can relate to, be it being bullied as an overweight kid, or overcoming common fears, like fire. The latter is particularly important in the second act of his show, as he challenges himself to face his fears. Even though the show takes place in his room, the stunts he performs definitely shouldn’t be tried by the casual audience member in their homes. These include bringing a guillotine down on his arm, to the most impressive one – swallowing fire before our very eyes, with our own nerves tensed when at the sight of an open flame around flammable objects. Of course, he emerges from both these tasks completely unscathed, and deserving of our virtual applause.

Above all, it is Kyle’s interactions with the audience that makes Dream feel special and genuine. Throughout the show, Kyle calls on audience volunteers to be part of his tricks, gently coaxes them into each trick, and paces it such that it evokes maximum surprise (and delight) from his volunteers. A coin guessing game where he predicts where an audience member has hidden a coin shows how perceptive he is and how well he uses the power of suggestion, while he seems almost psychic with how he asks a random audience member several personal questions, before revealing a sealed note which contains eerily accurate details of the answers he’s just received.

Even though we’re physically apart, Kyle also involves all the audience at once by giving us specific instructions to follow. One such standout act comes out towards the end of the show, where we are instructed to draw various symbols on paper, before ripping them in half. Shuffling these pieces, we choose a single half-symbol, set it aside, before he guides us through a process of ripping the remaining pieces up. Only one is left, and lo and behold – it’s the missing half of the piece we set aside. All of this happens while he explains to us the concept of predestination and fate, and having us all arrive at this same end point, we can’t help but feel that much closer to him and each other despite our physical distance.

At the back of our head, we know that all of this ‘magic’ is ingrained in mathematical formulas or means of obscuring items in sleeves or out of sight from the naked eye. But somehow, with his charm and confidence, Kyle makes us want to suspend our disbelief for an hour, and shows us the possibility of that a digital show can have. As Minister Lawrence Wong says, there is no magic solution our current predicament, but with entertainment like this, it makes the realities of the pandemic a little easier to bear.

Dream played on 25th June 2021 at 8pm on Zoom.

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