Yesterday evening I had the pleasure of being humbugged by David London at the Branch Museum. Now you can just get your minds out of the gutter and know that to humbug someone means to deceive them with a light hearted intent as in a jest or rouse. Humbuggery is all about good clean fun and so was the show I saw, HUMBUG: The Great P. T. Barnum Seance brought to the Branch courtesy of The Firehouse Theatre.
London, creator of and sole performer in is a magician who incorporates magic tricks into informative performance art pieces. HUMBUG engages the audience in the history of P. T. Barnum and his career in the first act then allows 12 seance table ticket holders participate firsthand in a seance using a table of London’s own design while the other audience members watch.
This show is participatory all the way. Just as the ad for the show says London regales the audience with tales of Barnum’s life and illustrious career as he passes around artifacts associated with Barnum and the acts that made his museum and circus famous (some real, some not) then there is the “spirit” connection thing. What the ad for the show fails to convey is the magic tricks that London incorporates in the first act that truly astounded me – unless of course, I really am psychic.
I was chosen out of the audience to assist with a demonstration designed to prove a connection between items associated with a person and that person’s spirit. I was asked to hold a keepsake supposedly containing a lock of hair from the beard of Annie Jones one of Barnum’s most famous bearded ladies. Then I was asked to blindly identify cards with either her picture or that of a random bearded lady. Somehow they came out 100% correct! Upon reflection I have an idea of how the trick was executed but at the time it was smooth as silk and I was, along with the rest of the audience, genuinely surprised.
I mean we were all grown-ups and knew this wasn’t real but it was good entertainment all the same. My one criticism: London could use some tweaking in the acting department. He is good enough for the average theatre goer but could be smoother as a showman. That subtle difference would have drawn me into the piece to a higher degree making my suspension of disbelief that much more salacious.
This show is great for history buffs, people who like the mysterious or folks who are simply looking for a different kind of theatrical experience.
Playing one more weekend. For more information click here.