The Expert at the Card Table
He looks like Hugh Grant except everything about the conjurer is longer; his face, his limbs, and these days, his hair. His name is Guy and he’s a full time barrister who moonlights as a card sharp. There’s something to say about that, but I’ll leave it to his clients.
He walked onto the stage in white tie and tails, the Full Monty, as it were. By the way, did you know that the Full Monty is not about taking your clothes off, but putting them on? In the early 1900’s a three-piece suit tailored by Sir Montague Burton, creator of the largest menswear manufacturing business in the world at the time, was known as the Full Monty, and customers asked for the Full Monty by name.
Guy said something about being overdressed as he removed his jacket, hung it on the old fashioned coat rack and then reached for a book that lay on a Victorian card table. This book has been in publication since 1902 and is the grande dame of all books about card manipulation, also known as cheating.
Guy’s slight of hand was interwoven within a narrative about a card sharp in the early 1900’s who because of his cheating ways was responsible for the death of an opponent who committed suicide when he lost the shirt off his back and everything else. Guy isn’t an actor but I found myself more involved in the story than in the tricks, maybe due to Neil Patrick Harris’ direction. Yes, Doogie directs, it was his first. This directing debut took place at the Mernier Chocolate Factory in Shakespearean Southwark, our old stomping grounds.
The Chocolate Factory houses a full restaurant, a theatre and an art gallery.
A small, but important note here about the absence of chocolate at the Chocolate Factory. We had dinner before the show and there was not one sliver of chocolate to be found - not even on the dessert menu. Good lord.
I admit that I’m not too impressed with card tricks, but my husband loves them. I appreciated that a large flat screen TV, previously hidden on a black draped wall above Guy’s head, came to life. It ruined the Victorian atmosphere, for suddenly we felt like we were the audience members of the gambling channel being treated to an intimate look at Guy’s incredibly long fingers as he did the deed.
The narrative was compelling in that tale of trickery, deceit and death kind-of-way and he told it seamlessly while he used audience members to prove he was the real deal. Couldn’t resist that. Guy’s best trick was The Reformation in which a card was torn into quarters and restored in front of our very eyes. Great, but… WHERE’S THE CHOCOLATE?