Live Review: Penn & Teller

17 June 2022 | 9:10 am | Joe Dolan

"And just like any other media, it is all the better for seeing it in person."

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In many ways, it’s difficult to truly analyse and dissect the nature of a magic show without diminishing its power. Thankfully, Penn & Teller have made a habit of doing just that themselves - and, as a result, they create something even greater.

For nearly half a century, the US duo have been breaking the conventions of traditional trickery and building their own empire from whole cloth. In doing so, they’ve written their own rules about approaching the craft - first and foremost: it isn’t magic.

It’s no secret that the pair don’t mind giving away their secrets every now and again - it’s very much a staple of their shows. It is in these revelations, in fact, that some of their most enjoyable moments of both magic and comedy come alive. Some moments are so well choreographed and meticulously planned that it is a sight to behold, and some are just so simple it’s genius. Far too often will an illusionist conceal their works behind a veil of mystique and intrigue, completely obfuscating their own brilliance in the process. In no other medium would an entertainer uphold a charade of otherworldly phenomena just to make themselves seem plausible. Robert Johnson didn’t really sell his soul to the devil - he was just a really good blues musician. So too, are Penn and Teller just really good performers.

It’s also quite unbelievable to think that in all those years, this is the first time they’ve ever performed in Australia. Of course, with all those years under their belts, Penn Jillette and his silent partner Teller make damn sure to kick off their time down under with a bang.

With all that time gatecrashing the cultural zeitgeist, there are some heavy hitters within their vaudevillian style of entertainment: the so-called “classics” of their repertoire that fans will be ecstatic to see performed live. And just like any other media, it is all the better for seeing it in person.

Admittedly, there are some moments that drag on and feel a little misplaced within the set. Ending with one of their most beloved tricks is a welcome and impressive treat, but within the spectacle of the arena, it’s not exactly the big finish that some may be expecting. However, upon learning that this show was almost completely rewritten in the 11th hour owing to a shipping mishap with some of their most important props and set pieces, it’s hard not to admire the ingenuity that comes with the duo picking themselves up by the bootstraps and just getting on with it. Again, they have almost 50 years of material to delve into, and yet they still came up with brand new stuff for this show.

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As audiences on the other side of the world, this may very well be a once in a lifetime opportunity, and the legends of Vegas know this. Far more than any kind of “best of” or greatest hits compilation, this is fan service when the fans are more switched on than any others. Everyone in attendance is expecting a twist and turn well before one even has a chance to come, and even then, Penn & Teller are still countless steps ahead.