Maho Magic Bar - Broad Encounters

‘Maho Magic Bar’ // Broad Encounters and Brisbane Festival

‘Maho Magic Bar’ was a hustle.

Brisbane Festival’s latest attraction, ‘Maho Magic Bar’, wowed audiences with its neon-lit, Yantai-vibed location of Twilight Electric. In this 60-minute magic show, a smorgasbord of creatives dazzled and entertained audiences with various card tricks, sleight-of-hand stunts and comedy routines. 

Located in Hamilton, the ‘Maho Magic Bar’ stood out like a beacon with its vibrant exterior design. The outside of the bar was an attraction in itself, especially if you wanted that Instagram-worthy photo. On the outside of the pop-up building were brightly glowing images of koi fish, Neko shop cats, cards, cocktails and various Japanese scripture. The rainbow fluorescent lights were transfixing and circulated the entire facade of the structure.

For audiences who were lucky enough to enter the bar, through its circular tatami entranceway, they’ll pass various red lanterns reminiscent of any Izakaya in Tokyo. A pink cherry blossom tree hangs from the ceiling in the centre of the room and LED lighting of blue and purple makes the space feel enchanted. Audience members are given a table number upon entry and guided to their spot at one of the four bars, where they can drink and watch the magic happen on the counter right before their eyes and by rotating acts. Alternatively, there are cheaper seats available in the centre of the room and under the blossom decoration. 

Described as “mischief, magic and cocktails” by Brisbane Festival, ‘Maho Magic Bar’ created an immersive experience with entertainers direct from Japan – a somewhat style of the show’s producers, Broad Encounters. After taking one’s seat, the magic tricks, performed by professionals in the industry, felt exclusive and intimate. Haze machines filled the room, adding to the mystery, and audiences were encouraged to drink and delight in the revelry. 

The playing space, where most of the group ensemble routines occurred, was in front of the main bar, which is somewhat upstage in the room. The night transitions from intimate card tricks to group routines, where the group work was essentially extra activities audience members were encouraged to pay for. 

While audiences pay more to sit at the bar, there were some seats among the configuration where sightlines were an issue, especially for those located at the far corners; it limited the full performance when the group gathered and ruined some tricks. From the comments of customers sitting in the centre, and despite the premium price tag, premium seats were a must. Without them, and if opting for the ‘cheap seats’, it sounded as though you were left out of the main magic action that happens on the outer. 

Speaking of, the price point of ‘Maho Magic Bar’ was significant and within the show, there was a strong theme of hustling. Unfortunately, this could be what deters a lot of customers from entering the hidden world. Tickets were approximately $80.00 for entry and cocktails average at about $20.00 per drink; no drinks are free. In addition to this, audiences were invited to spend extra money for the magicians to perform extra special acts (the group acts). Before one knows it, they have spent in excess of $100.00, per person, and this makes for an expensive night out for some people. Additionally, magic acts flew from one to the next, and before you ordered your second cocktail, the hour was up and audiences are told it was the end of the show. Considering you can see a traditional magic show that is double the length of the ‘Maho Magic Bar’ and for the same price, it just didn’t add up. 

The talented magic makers within the show are all clearly skilled in their performance areas. Local Brisbane performance artist, Sho Eba, makes a fine, quick-witted host, and packs a fierce punch to audiences. Unfortunately, Eba’s microphone volume was quite loud at times, which made the delivery of his dialogue and witty one-liners somewhat distorted. It was such a shame, as Eba is exceptionally charismatic and the perfect choice to lead the magical evening. 

Described as the ‘princess of magic’, Kaori Kitazawa was delicate with her magical movements, and her tricks were subtle and alluring. She moved through sleight-of-hand card tricks and craftily delivered the famous “write your name on the card” trick. Quite contrastingly, the mind-bending magician that was Sarito came across as a bad boy, with Johnny Depp-styled eyeliner. Sarito delivered a powerful “card in mouth” playing trick, which had audiences cringing in delight.

Shirayuri created magical mischief with his suave flair and style, using ropes illusions to confuse and transfix audience members. Finally, Santa Terakado stunned with his completely unique and memorable toy magic. Using plush toys in his routine, Terakado performed his own take on the “sponge ball” trick, making multiple fake pieces of cheese appear from unexpected places. Terakado had a tongue-in-cheek humour and maintained his chaotically fun energy throughout his routine. 

The ‘Maho Magic Bar’ has so much potential and could use a Creative Producer to tighten the whole experience and make it extra worthwhile for customers. By lengthening the duration or even reducing the cost, there would be more of an attraction to revisit the bar on the inside, instead of just seeing it from its free exterior. In fact, make a free cocktail magically appear with the entrance fee and you may have more audiences pleased.

‘Maho Magic Bar’ performs until Sunday, 18 September 2022 at Twilight Electric as part of Brisbane Festival. For more information, visit Brisbane Festival’s website

Photography by Nathaniel Mason and Katie Prendergast

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