Conjuring Chennai: Meet Alex Black, a magician from Russia

In his fourth tour in the city, magician Alex Black has several tricks up his sleeve even some tech-savvy ones to enthral the Chennai makkal
Russian magician Alex Black in action
Russian magician Alex Black in action

CHENNAI: On his fourth tour of the city, Alex Black is no stranger to Chennai. Not only is the magician from Russia familiar with the city’s many landmarks, but he’s also made quite a few friends here.

This is why his show at the Mylapore Fine Arts Club Auditorium on Sunday attracted quite an audience across age groups. With 15 years of experience, it wouldn’t be too far-fetched to call the 33-year-old a veteran.

“I grew up in a remote corner of post-Soviet Russia,” says Alex in a conversation after his show. The collapse of the Soviet Union also led Russia into an economic meltdown, and Alex grew up in a family beset by financial hardship.

“There were times when my parents would have to wait more than a year to get paid,” he recalls. A chance encounter with a magician got him interested in the art, and he soon enrolled at the Circus College in Moscow.

And there’s been no looking back. In the 15 years since he graduated, Alex has performed in over 20 countries including the US, parts of Europe, China, the Middle East, and Turkey, and in India, he’s also performed in Mumbai and Hyderabad.

Trade secret
Like any other magician though, Alex is reticent to let you in on his craft. Understandably so, because the whole point of a magic trick is lost if the audience knows how it’s done.

While most audiences are aware of the artifice that goes behind even the most extravagant special effects movie, the art of the magician remains a well-guarded secret, which is why even an old-fashioned routine like sawing a person into two and putting them back into a single piece continues to fascinate.

No camera tricks, no edits, nothing the whole spectacle is there right in front of you, and in real-time. So it’s not for nothing that the audience here was in thrall when Alex did the same with his assistant, who came out looking whole and unharmed.

On the other hand, his increasing familiarity with the Chennai audience means Alex has to keep varying his tricks. Also, he has to make sure his routines don’t look visually obsolete among a generation saturated by sophisticated visual imagery.

So he makes quite clever use of holograms, even emerging out of one early in the show. Objects in the huge visual display uncannily transform into real objects in his hand, and at other times the hologram exists purely to heighten the show’s visual appeal.

It is a virtuoso display of meticulously choreographed routines, be it Alex sliding down a roller coaster, climbing a huge flight of stairs, and punching dragons in the face, all performed to clockwork precision.

No mean feat
And yet, what seems easily accomplished on stage takes several years of rehearsing, says Alex.

“These days it’s easy for anybody to go into a store and buy a kit that will help them learn some simple magic tricks. But routines like the vanishing act which you saw today take several years of practice to get right,” he adds.

The vanishing act, one of the highlights of the evening, saw him disappear from one end of the auditorium and reappear at the other in a matter of seconds. It almost feels like an act of sorcery, and one can only imagine the time it must take to perfect a routine like this.

One particular routine had him inviting a member of the audience onto the stage who was asked to visualise mentally one of several images flashed before her in cards. The image would then appear in a hologram for all to see.

A variant of the mind-reading games familiar to most magicians, but made more tech-savvy. In a show that lasted slightly more than an hour, Alex pulled out every possible trick from the magician’s hat, except there was no actual hat, only his imagination.

Alex Black, who began his tour of Chennai on October 22, will continue performing every weekend till November 27 at the Mylapore Fine Arts Hall Auditorium. The coming weekend, Alex says, he has a few new tricks lined up, for which he’ll be joined by two other assistants. Do come next week, he insists.

Tickets on BookMyShow, insider, or call: 7397389991

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The New Indian Express