Marisa Carnesky (UK)

Magic War

Theatre Museum Covent Garden, Friday 26 May 2006

Clad as a burlesque Pallas Athena – Goddess of strategic warfare – Carnesky presented her, vaudevillian one-woman revue, which ‘through monologue, performance actions and traditional stage magic,’ looked into the most surreal story of 19th and 20th century warfare: the deployment of stage magicians.

The show was built on true stories – such as that of Robert Houdin, the 19th century French magician who was dispatched by the French Government to quell a Muslim uprising Algiers. His mission was to convince the Algerians of western and christian supremacy through the performance of illusions.

Magic War expanded these ideas to create a broader version of the subject, meditating, through humour, on war, strategy power and deception.

It dealt with the rights and wrongs of war, at one point asking the audience whether she should cut off the arm of a volunteer with her stage guillotine, if it prevented a terrorist bomb exploding nearby, The clashing cries of ‘yes’ and ‘no’ poignantly brought home the immediacy and immanence of the morality of war, and what may or may not be justifiable in wartime. The guillotine was released: but the volunteer was, of course, saved by the conjuror’s arts.

Through the association of magic and warfare (made by generals and here re-made as burlesque) our own attitudes to the morality of war are brought curiously to light.

‘Magic War’ was a premiere for Wild Gift. It has since been developed and re-performed at the Soho Theatre, London, and internationally elsewhere.

Thanks to
Mark Webber (technical / production), Chris Green (development)
Roddy Buchanan, Oliver Vicars-Harris (Theatre Museum)