Reviewed – 28th February 2018
“if given proper time to breathe, these moments of realisation, where odd ideas crystallise into reality, would have felt truly magical”
The perplexing art of knowing the impossible – a stranger’s thoughts, emotions, and memories – is a niche that is well-explored in theatre. Mediums claim their knowledge comes from other realms, while various illusionists attempt to explain the science and psychology of their ‘tricks’. In Das Fest, Philipp Oberlohr sets out his stall: a fusion of theatre and mindreading not for the purpose of gazing in wonder at his impossible feats, but for exploring the dichotomies between reality and imagination.
I should say at this point that Das Fest, as an interactive piece relying on the audience, will vary from audience to audience. Unfortunately for the press night of this piece, Oberlohr’s first audience member, one on whom he depended throughout the entire hour, consistently failed entirely to follow the simple instructions given to him, resulting in some misfired guesses from Oberlohr, and general distraction from the show as the performer gainfully made light of the situation. Although giving Oberlohr a chance to showcase a wonderfully wry wit (and astonishingly patient calmness), it is highly unfortunate that the press night of this show was disturbed in this way. This also resulted in wasted time, causing the second half of the show, where many threads carefully laid are drawn together, to feel rushed. I feel that, if given proper time to breathe, these moments of realisation, where odd ideas crystallise into reality, would have felt truly magical – but, through no fault of Oberlohr’s own, this was sadly not to be.
This is not to undermine the fact that Oberlohr’s divinations, when speaking with any other audience member, were simply mind blowing. Coupled with some truly innovative ways of presenting what are often, in essence, well-known tricks, Oberlohr’s charmingly off-putting (or off-puttingly charming) personality, lends his performance a unique charm without feeling pointlessly out-there for its own sake. That no explanation is ever offered for Oberlohr’s uncanny abilities lends to the mystique and helps to focus on the more cerebral, and sometimes a little philosophically heavy, aspects of the show.
All in all, Oberlohr has found a great niche for himself and his undoubtable mindreading abilities, presented here in a piece that does not attempt to deceive or patronise the audience, nor to simple bombard them with illusions and tricks. This is instead a surprisingly quiet and thoughtful tour through emotion and memory that I believe has the power to be utterly spellbinding.
Reviewed by Matthew Wild
Photography by Daniel Haingartner
Vaults Theatre until 4th March