STRAIGHT & LACED gets 8/10 Odd couple magic masters in disguise

Straight and Laced
Straight & Laced @ Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den (for FRINGE WORLD)
Wednesday, February 7, 2018

8/10

It’s a formula as old as storytelling itself: two people with radically divergent personalities are forced to pair up. One is usually wilder. The other, more conservative. They usually loathe each other yet, despite their differences – they come together to win the day.

With this first-time collaboration, Jon Madd and Paul James draw upon this ‘buddy cop’ trope with theatrical prowess. Danny Glover’s straight-and-narrow temperament vs Mel Gibson’s on-the-edge lunacy, as seen in Lethal Weapon is probably the best known example of this sort of pairing. Add a little dash of the neurotic Larry and inept Balki from 90s sitcom Perfect Strangers and you have a clearer portrait of our Straight & Laced magical odd couple.

Paul James is definitely bad cop. He’s gloriously deadpan, suave and debonair. He creates an atmosphere of self-control with well-scripted jokes and an unshakable, grounded physicality. He opens the show with a deliberately mildly-impressive card trick, hilarious due to his comedy call-backs and delivery. He then goes on to pull members of the audience to bounce his ‘bad cop’ routine off using seemingly lame tricks that actually end up being more than just a little impressive.

What happens when an unstoppable force meets an immovable object? An irresistible paradox, of course. Thus, the irrepressible Jon Madd enters the show in a flurry of lovable goofiness while Paul shakes his head and chastises as per the buddy cop dynamic.

Madd-ness ensues with Jon’s contrasting improv style performance. Like the classic court jester, he fluidly works the crowd with self-deprecation, luring us into thinking he’s not got the goods, then… BAM, nothing less than sheer genius is cleverly manifested.

This wonderful lunatic’s act is extremely physical – the comedy and magical illusions alike. And, THAT FACE. It’s so powerfully engaging he could probably come into your house, sit you down and quietly remove all your valuables from under your nose while you watch on, hypnotised by his visage. Some masterful diversion techniques are seen from both performers throughout the 50-minute performance.

Promoted as a magic show, there’s definitely no Paul Daniels-style rabbit-in-a-hat tricks happening here. With every bit the two set up, an unsuspecting audience are at first invited to assume a trick about nothing is about to occur. The illusions aren’t important though. This show is more about the comedic relationship between the two performers than the actual magic. Don’t get me wrong though – these guys know exactly what they’re doing. And do it brilliantly.

After the show, you’ll more than likely want to ask them how they pulled off the bigger illusions. But, as members of the Western Australian Society of Magicians and no doubt signatories to the Hogwarts code of secrecy, us mere muggles are more than likely denied allowed access to such mysteries. Go see them before they, em, disappear?

JO CAMPBELL

Straight & Laced is on February 8, 9 and 11 at Lazy Susan’s Comedy Den as part of FRINGE WORLD. For tickets and more information, visit the event page here.

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