As the audience went into the small upstairs cabinet room at La Boheme, I saw a number of chairs organised around the central card table, the atmospheric lights, the cards on the table. The stage was set but with little to no experience in slight-of-hand trickery and the near-magic of card-cheating, I had no idea what to expect.
The show starts with a crash-course in methods of cheating. First the trick is performed for us and then it is broken down to enable the audience to see the process in action. The room is an intimate one and the atmosphere is kept perfectly for the performance.
The tricks become ever more impressive and performer jden redden ensures the audience follows along, dealing with the audience as deftly as the cards. He ensures that even those without a background in poker or cards will be able to appreciate the skill of the performance.
The performance needs to go above and beyond and redden continuously rises to meet the ever-higher challenges he sets himself. He plays with audience expectation and, like any expert at the card table, allows the audience to think he is being bettered.
Taking the first half of its title from 1902 book The Expert at the Card Table, by the mysterious SW Erdnase, redden takes us through not only the skills of card cheating but also the potential identity of Erdnase. Along the way, you get wonders, education, and if, like me, you don’t have a background in cards, a new appreciation for the skills and history involved.
The performance runs like a perfectly oiled machine and redden gives the audience full opportunity to mess with the process almost as though just to prove the strength of skill and practice. Quickly you become aware that whatever he wants the cards to do, they will do. This could rob the performance of its suspense but ultimately with ever-raising challenges, one cannot help but be drawn into the performance just to see how redden will achieve the impossible.
Words by Liam McNally.
The Expert at the Card Table – How to Cheat at Cards is playing every night (except Mondays and Tuesdays) until March 18 at La Boheme. Tickets available here.