Fringe is about community, shared experiences, beer, great theatre, weird theatre, fun, and a little bit of magic. Productions Presents Productions’ The Man Behind the Curtain checks all of those boxes and more.
My only regret is that I can’t experience the magic for the first time again.
Kicking off the Montreal Fringe with their Off-Fringe venture of immersive/magic/comedy theatre, performers Erin the Magician and Erik Leisinger aim for the moon. To preface, this review is exceptionally hard to write because it would be unkind of anyone to spoil the magic that happens at Sam’s apartment. Yes, this is a Fringe show taking place at director Sam Jameson’s apartment, and frankly, the space is used so well I can’t imagine this show anywhere else.
Now, great immersive theatre should appeal to as many of the 5 senses as possible and The Man Behind the Curtain does just that. I saw, I heard, I touched, I smelled, and I even tasted, and none of it seemed superfluous. Nothing about the show seems half-baked or crammed in, on the contrary, there is precise detail in every nook and cranny, and audience members are part of the magic before they even know it. Immersive theatre should account for audience reaction, limitations, resistances, etc, and Productions Presents Productions does a great job at that.
In an interview with Forget the Box, producers Jameson and Leisinger mention the importance of consent in immersive theatre: “No one is addressed individually or put on the spot”, and in conversation, Jameson mentionned to me how little experience the team has with immersive theatre. As a viewer I found that there’s a ton of audience freedom, while also having a logical direction. The 4th wall is shattered, but as an audience, we wanted to continue in the way the show was meant to continue. The team created an experience where the illusion of freedom is present, yet we were also being herded. This is a fine balance for accessible immersivity and something I appreciate.
The original and extensive use of space, the music and audio design, and the tactile details for the entirety of the performance are all quite notable. Now I know I have stayed vague about the performances and narrative, but I really think everyone should go see it themselves, as I don’t want to give away any of the magic. This whole review reads differently once you’ve seen the show. Even though I was expecting a magic show, there were still surprises to be found at every turn. The performance duo work together in a way where their chemistry is palpable. Erin the Magician is unbelievable and his presence is indescribable. Some would say his magic is invisible. Erik Leisinger is utterly charismatic, and viewers can really appreciate Jameson’s contribution to this performance as well. My only criticism of the show is also a compliment: I was left wanting more. The finale is as satisfying as it is hyped up to be throughout the show, however I do wish there was another 10 minutes of magic, or a longer final act. Momentum builds consistently, but it’s over while you’re still wondering “what’s next?”.
The Man Behind the Curtain left me with an ear-to-ear smile. Whether I was uncomfortable, having a good time, spooked out, or anything in between, I had a huge grin. It is important to note the content warnings of accessibility, small spaces, strobe lights, fake blood, dog hair, and coarse language. If none of that phases you, I truly believe that The man Behind the Curtain is a gem every Fringe-goer should see. It is fun, light, smart, intricate, and original. Get tickets as soon as you can, since the audience is limited to 10 performances. This is a one-of-a-kind experience, and I can’t think of anything else like it in Montreal right now.
Productions Presents Productions presents “The Man Behind the Curtain”
at the 29th St-Ambroise Montreal Fringe Festival
Check out all our other 70+ reviews
from this year’s fest on our Fringe page!
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