La Cirque de la Mort
10/12-13, 8 p.m.
Browncoat Pub and Theatre
111 Grace Street
Tickets: $20 adv/$25 day of
The leaves on the turkey oaks in in the forest behind my house have faded to a golden brown. Already, some have floated to a crunchy demise on the forest floor. The air contains a decidedly autumnal chill, and suddenly a wider variety of pumpkin-flavored products than necessary have appeared on the grocer’s shelves. It can only mean Halloween lurks on the horizon. What better way to join in the festivities than with a séance?
Aiden Sinclair, a master illiusionist who has been performing magic for 18 years, will host one at the Browncoat Pub and Theatre Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. Originally from New York, he has performed before audiences of thousands of people worldwide, and in front of celebrities, international dignitaries and even royalty. His magic has taken him to England, Ireland, Scotland, South Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Chile, Argentina, Columbia, Peru—“pretty much everywhere you can imagine,” he says. “It’s been a good 15 years.”
Sinclair began with standard tricks: cards, coins, doves … rabbits in hats. He gradually shifted toward mentalism, the illusion of mind reading. “I’ve found that it’s much more personal,” he says. “It’s something that [takes place] inside your head, not something physical, so it’s a much stronger style of presentation.”
A growing national interest in the paranormal over the past few years culminated in the creation of his new show, “La Cirque de la Mort,” or the Circus of the Dead. It combines history, magic, and ghost stories into one theatrical performance.
“We use the art of illusion to bring history to life,” Sinclair explains. “It’s extremely story-driven. It’s much more verbose than the average magic show, but it allows us to delve into really dark areas of the human psyche, which is really a lot of fun.”
If our city’s ghosts could actually be summoned from beyond the veil, the result would probably look a lot like “Cirque.” Sinclair will focus the content of his show on Wilmington’s past and haunted tales. “The illusions are going to bring those stories back to life,” he says. “We usually spend six to 12 weeks, depending on the place, doing historical research. That way, when we go on stage, we can tell something that’s factual that we can back up and verify. It’s always amazing to me when you can go into somebody else’s town and have someone in your audience leave your show knowing something more about their own community.”
An intensely audience-driven performance, every illusion uses someone from the crowd as a participant. “You’re going to spend an evening with some people that you might have wanted to know in time, and some people that you had hoped to never meet,” Sinclair concludes. “All of these people are definitely among the departed, but you might get a sense that some of them are still lingering around.”
The authenticity of the show is driven further by the numerous props Sinclair uses, many of which top out at 100 years old or more. He says, “If we’re not able to find the actual antiques that we want, we have them reproduced the way they were made in the day so that all the structure’s material is authentic.”
An example comes with a period straightjacket from the 1930s. Though not made any longer, the ones available wouldn’t work today any how. “[They] are in such bad condition that you couldn’t use it,” he admits. “It’s a very costly way of producing props, but it also possesses a certain feeling you can’t duplicate.”
Sinclair credits his show’s appeal from people’s natural curiosity of death and the unknown. “People like to have that brush with death without having to cross the line,” he says. “Everyone, regardless of religion, has a certain wonder about what lies beyond. Everybody has a sense that there are things that linger. For example, if you walk out onto the battlefield at Gettysburg, you can feel history, even though today it’s just an empty field. I think deep down we all like to have the spooky story by the campfire, and it’s even better if you can do that in a theater where you don’t get rained on.”
The theme’s prominent role certainly raises curiosity from many; however, Sinclair recommends anyone who recently bereaved a love one to remain at home. Likewise, the show isn’t suitable for kids 10 and under due to the subject matter. Folks who do join can expect a foray into our city’s past where our childhood sense of wonder is piqued.
“Children expect a magician to do magic,” Sinclair says. “It’s what a magician’s supposed to do. [But] the older we get, we get further away from that sense of magic. There are fewer things in life that make us go, ‘Wow!’ or ‘I wonder how that works.’ When you were little, everything was amazing. When you’re older, you’re smarter, so it no longer [captivates, which is why] it’s a really powerful thing when you’re able to take an adult and suspend their reality for a period of time and make them believe.”
As to whether or not one must believe in ghosts to enjoy the show: not necessarily. In fact, Sinclair often gets the same question of his own beliefs from audiences. “Regardless of religion, everybody in life has a moment in time that they might choose to stay in forever, if they had the opportunity to,” he answers. “It might be their personal heaven, or in some cases their personal hell. … And that’s what we grasp onto when we do this show. We present those moments that somebody might have lingered in. They’re the resonance of someone who might have something left to say.”