Victoria Fringe Festival 2016 Preview – Charlatan!
August 25, 2016
Long celebrated for his flawless slight of hand, Travis Bernhardt apparates back to the west coast in time for Victoria Fringe. After more than three years of pulling the wool over our eyes, what’s he got left in his big bag of tricks? Well, while Bernhardt gave away no secrets, he nevertheless put his silver tongue to work in getting Showbill.ca’s Matt McLaren pumped for his new show, Charlatan!
Matt McLaren: Glad to have you with us Travis. Tell me, if you were talking to someone who had just finished hearing about every variation of fringe show possible: what would you tell them about your piece to make it stand out?
Travis Bernhardt: The experience of this show is unlike any other magic show they’ve seen. It’s not a magic show, really. The aesthetic is minimalist and there’s no narrative arc, not even the pseudo-narrative/callback structure that many magicians use to fake it, like my last show, Unpossible!. There’s no spectacular climax where I attempt to break your brain. Instead, the goal is to convincingly explore the ethical grey area mapped out by psychics, oracles, spiritualists, and shamans. To stand with one foot over the line.
MM: Charlatan! keeps making me reflect on the nature of theatre, an art that thrives on trickery and deception. Did this meta quality cross your mind when developing the show, or are we just in for some good clean fooling around?
TB: Yes, and the line between theatre and conversation, the power dynamics between performer and audience, the ethical issues around deception and influence, etc., but none of this is explicit in the show, thank god.
MM: What’s important for you to get out of an audience? Other than applause and great riches.
TB: Connection and engagement, laughter, shared joy, and just sharing generally.
MM: So where did you first get roped into this showmanship business?
TB: On the streets of Vancouver, busking.
MM: Say you meet a young first time fringe artist who’s completely over their head. What advice would you give them?
TB: I probably wouldn’t, or at least I’d attempt to resist the temptation. If I liked them I’d probably just listen and offer whatever compassion I could, drawing on my own feeling of failure and being in over my head. Advice they can get from those better qualified.
Why should audiences come and see Charlatan!?
TB: If they want to live in the world of the charlatan for a while—but relatively safely, within the limits of the theatre, such as they are.