Tracy Wise doesn’t match the stereotype of a showy stage magician. As she strides out of the wings in a no-nonsense trouser suit, she’s every inch the DI from a hard-boiled crime thriller; and of course, that’s exactly the persona she’s aiming to convey. Crime Scene Illusion is a clever genre mash-up, which combines well-executed magic tricks with a satisfying detective back-story, in an impressive hour of crime-themed chicanery.
Wise opens with a lengthy explanation of her premise, which if anything might be too well-rehearsed - when it comes to expressive gestures and dramatic shifts in tone, a little goes a long way. Don’t worry though: once she’s off the script, Wise is a commanding but likeable performer. She gives crystal-clear instructions, and builds instant rapport with her on-stage “volunteers”; when she addresses the audience, she’s friendly and wryly humorous, and there was never a moment’s doubt that we were in safe hands.
It must be said that, if you’re a fan of magic, the tricks themselves will seem familiar. Aside from one highly entertaining coin routine, they’re all variants on standard mind-reading tropes; but that doesn’t really matter, because each is given an unconventional spin. Mind-reading routines are all about the patter, and Wise has the patter perfected, spinning credible stories about the impossible deductions she’s made from the “evidence” she sees. Along the way, she touches on genuinely interesting aspects of criminal forensics - from the study of handwriting to the unreliability of human memory - connecting her tricks with a clear, unforced through-line.
It’s slickly presented and produced with attention to detail, though sometimes the magic itself doesn’t pop out as much as it could do. The elaborate finale is a genuine delight, embroiling two audience members in a re-enactment of a dastardly murder; but amidst all the flourishes I lost track of the actual trick, a creative pick-a-card routine built round pictures of bloodstains. I was disappointed, too, that a piece of “evidence” sealed with some ceremony inside a transparent bag turned out to be little more than a prop. When a stage magician seals a message in an envelope at the start of her show, you’re entitled to expect a bravura reveal at the end.
So there’s room here to polish and tweak - and with time and development, the underlying tricks might step up a notch or two. But Crime Scene Illusion is already a winning concept, and Wise is a winning entertainer. It’s rare to see a magic show with such a clear sense of purpose, or a magician who’s so comfortable with a high-concept theme. I enjoyed it immensely… and if you’ve ever lapped up a police drama, I’m sure that you will too.