Performance review: Josh Staley, Quicker than the Eye, Arrow on Swanston

Not just quick of hand, Staley is also funny and a good showman.

As its title suggests, Josh Staley’s magic show, Quicker than the Eye really did aim to answer the question: is the hand quicker than the eye? 

There are usually two types of audiences in a magic show – the jaded veterans who know how every trick is done, and others who’ve never seen a magic show before. 

To bridge the gap between the two audiences, Quicker than the Eye built up the complexity and skill of the magic tricks. For audiences used to the dramatic (think along the lines of bodies being “cut” in half), Staley’s opening routine of a well-known card trick was not the most impressive – at first. However, there was a twist that quickly managed to impress cynical audiences. As the show progressed, Staley‘s gradual introduction of props greatly enhanced the impact of well-known magic tricks. His linking of seemingly separate tricks was also impressive. 

Another highlight of Quicker than the Eye was Staley’s talents in showmanship. Despite the microphone not working, he still managed to project his voice and engage the audience with high energy and enthusiasm. Although at times his delivery was a bit too quick for some to catch up. Staley’s talents in comedy were clear from his ability to make an all-ages audience laugh through clever quips and gags. As described by my friend, Staley was ‘funnier than most stand-up comedians’.  

Although his skills as a magician and comedian were indisputable, there were some minor bumps in his show. The numbers-themed magic trick felt more long-winded than it needed to be. This could have been resolved by a bit more prior planning, as well as by shortening the number of audience participants and components of the trick. One of Staley’s storytelling segments also unintentionally gave away the surprise. 

Read: Exhibition review: Twist, Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery

Despite these shortcomings, it wasn’t uncommon to hear audible gasps and “whoas” from audience members throughout the whole show – especially from the couple sitting next to us. Judging from their comments such as ‘How did he do that?’ and ‘Holy (insert a swear word of your choice)’, it was clear that Staley’s masterful sleight-of-hand delivered a strong performance. 

Quicker than the Eye was performed at the Arrow on Swanston: The Cardini Cabaret, as part of the Melbourne Magic Festival. The show was performed from 4-8 July 2023. 

Phuong is a former Sales Assistant for Artshub, who has planned events and programs for Darebin Youth Services and Shepparton Art Museum. In her spare time she makes music and plays Kirby video games. You can find me here at LinkedIn and Website