Three years ago I had the pleasure of welcoming the fabulous Mr Carter to one of my performances of séance. He is the owner of the wonderful 40 winks Hotel in the east of London and the host of bedtime stories, which in his own words are…
“…deliciously decadent and glamorous, taking the idea of a pyjama party but infusing it with amazing stories, music and cocktails.”
His plans to retire this institution last year have been met with fierce opposition from his guests and he was forced to bring them back. In order to keep things fresh (mainly for himself I presume), he invited séance to be a residence show for 2016. We both thought this was a great idea, when he called me in Vienna.
I happened to be in London two days after his call, what a strange coincidence. We met. We talked. We confirmed our first date: February 18th.
Unfortunately Mr. Carter’s evenings are very exclusive, his reach is very far and the evening sold out within a few hours. If you’d like to come to the another evening of “uncanny spectacle and answers to all questions” please email Miss Daisy: firstname.lastname@example.org
For legal reasons I’m not allowed to disclose any of the questions, but for sake of completeness, I’ll post all my answers here. You are all clever people I’m sure, you can guess the questions…
I’m 32, after 8 years in London we moved to Vienna. I’ve studied theology/philosophy, theatre and magic/mentalism. They are quite different fields, but there are some things I love in all of them: I love Alan Watts (talking about mindblowing philosophy), Shunt (mind-blowing shows) and mentalism (a great tool to create an experience).
Das Spiel is my favourite show. It is a mindreading experience co-created by myself and the audience. I use memories from people from the audience to combine them in real time to a new, shared experience. The show encourages the believe that the game started long before the actual show began and reaches far into the lives of the audience. It will pull the rug right out from under your feet. Enjoy the free fall.
Two things. A big Turkish guy hugged me repeatedly as a reaction to the experience we provided for him. The following night a skinny English guy couldn’t stop saying “Oh my f*cking god” at the same point in the performance. He said it 5 times (we filmed that show, that’s why I know).
In London’s melting pot, you get people from a lot of different cultures – and they all show emotions in (very) different ways.
If studying philosophy has taught me one thing, it is not to ask too many questions and enjoy the mystery. I don’t have any supernatural powers, I have a set of unusual skills that I use to create an experience. The methods I use are like colors a painter uses to create something.
Derren Brown is a master and always honest about his dishonesty. He (and his team) have pushed limits in many wonderful ways.
I’m starting from similar grounds, heading in a different direction.
Biggest fear? Even though so far everything has always worked, nothing has to work. I’m not Derren Brown, you’d be disappointed, if he couldn’t control your mind. The last sentence sounds a bit twisted. hm.
I can create the experience of the game, even if things go wrong.
Also I’ve been very lucky with my audiences. The people that come are open and playful, happy to help create this experience.
Okay, here’s my biggest fear: London’s hen/stag-night planners discover the Das Spiel, thinking it’s a kinky game – and they start sending these kids my way. And all I can hear backstage is a chorus of drunk people shouting: Let’s play…
What would I do? Cover my nipples with duct-tape-crosses, make a thong out of duct tape and give them what they want. A lecture on euthanasia. There is no business like show business.
“What am I thinking” is what I call a Zen-For-Beginners-Question. It is followed by something that is very hard to achieve: And empty mind. Try it.
No I rarely get asked that question. Mainly because it’s quite clear that my on-stage character has these abilities, not me. I guess I do, but… it’s confusing even for me.
I wish I was a journalist.
Yesterday I watched 6 start-ups from Vienna pitch their ideas. 3 judges listened and gave feedback. cocoquadrat – a coffeeshop/co-working space (with amazing coffee) – was the set of this spectacle.
I enjoy watching people being passionate about something. I enjoy even more, if this passion pushes them to leave their comfort zone and face a challenge.
Describing your passion in 40 seconds is hard. I struggle every time. Most of the time I show something, because: Nothing beats experience. But I never stay under 40 seconds. (And I don’t care too much. A fellow artist friend of mine once said: If I could describe what I do, there would be no need to do it. Imagine Mozart saying: I make people make sounds with instruments, describing the life of a person – the struggle and the joy, the love and the loss…
That does sound pretty interesting. Maybe I should start pitching for Mozart. What a shame he’s dead. There is no god.)
It was inspiring. It forces me to think about how I communicate my work.
It left me feeling sad, because the overwhelming message was: Money trumps everything. If something makes money, it’s worth doing it. It doesn’t really matter what it is.
Some things need to be done. Regardless if they make money or not. We don’t need to add to the noise in this world. It’s too noisy already. But we need more things that need to be done.
I had the pleasure of working with a gallery in Vienna: Die Schöne makes schöne Sachen (beautiful things) and with this they add some much needed silence to this world.
There’s one start-up I’d like to mention: fragnebenan.com Ein Netzwerk für gute Nachbarschaft. A man (and a team) with passion and they create something useful. And one day they might even make money.
Enough. I have to go and do things now. Things that need doing. And might make money.
My shows are VERY interactive. Up to the point were I can not do a show if there are no people. (Whose minds would I read?)
Most people hear interactive and they get afraid. Don’t worry, I understand. But let me tell you something.
I get most bookings from people who have participated in my shows.
They experience something so special, they feel the need to share it – they want others to experience it too. “Come and perform at my brothers birthday – I want him to feel that too.”
So when you are in my audience next time and I ask you to take part, know that I respect you, I’m grateful for your time and I will do everything I can to give you a unique experience.
Two of my favourite reactions so far:
I performed in London at a theatre festival and at some point I had the help of a big Turkish man and his wife.
I did what I do. He stared at me for 10 long second and then he hugged me.
A bear hug indeed.
The other performance was for an international management conference in Vienna. There was a lady from Brazil who for a brief moment forgot how to speak English. And she did not notice.
I’ll cherish these moments for a long time.
It’s all about the people.
séance is going on tour this week. We have 5 shows in London in VERY unusual locations, followed by 2 shows in Vienna (one in a basement) and a very special tour finale in a castle in the Tirolean Alps.
Join “ex-theologist turned illusionist” Philipp Oberlohr as he contacts the spirits that haunt this place. This reconstruction of a Victorian séance is an evening of uncanny spectacle. Prepare for darkness, rituals and answers to all life’s questions.
Leave your beliefs at the door, together with weak-hearted loved-ones – or risk having them permanently altered.
“supernatural… a spooky one man show”
séance. is a theatre event combining illusions and audience participation. It draws on the tradition of Victorian Séances and the Spiritualist movement. séance. will make you doubt your perception and question your beliefs.
Coming from a physical theatre background I know how hard devising theatre is. Early in my career my artistic vision lead to solo work – at the moment I only need one body to express my view of the world.
I saw my friends struggling with finding committed partners and even more struggling with finding a voice for their ensemble. It’s a fun struggle, because you grow so much as a person, but still it’s a struggle: you are trying to invent a language that no-one speaks yet and face a lot of failure in trying to translate it to your audience. (If you’re lucky enough to have one.) Not only do you face failure, you face public failure – which takes this failure thing to a whole new level.
That’s why I have deep respect for my fellow travellers. Every inch of progress is hard earned.
My highlight of this year’s devised theatre performances was ghostland cinema by mingbeast.
Two women form this company and I had the pleasure to see their performance early march this year. And it was so good.
Two women deeply exploring, challenging each other, presenting the audience with their unique take.
I cannot tell you what the show was about. I remember having a deep emotional understanding of what I was seeing. I remember thinking: This is art.
Please go and see their work:
I found a picture of our first encounter on their website. They are on stage and I’m leaning against the wall on the left.
Three weeks ago I had the pleasure to work with director James Blakey as part of a Slung Low production.
As someone who creates his own work I have the tendency to feel quite protective of it. Getting a director on board can be risky as my good friend David Duchin pointed out. It’s almost like letting someone else educate your child. Lots of potential for fuck-ups. And fuck-downs. (That must be the positive version. I’m just guessing.)
I’ve worked with James three times so far. And I’d describe him as: fearless, respectful and visionary.
Fearless might be the wrong word. I think I have used the expression ‘not afraid of being afraid’.
Never before have I worked with a director like him.
He has never pushed me and yet he created a space where I pushed myself. He directed his vision and yet he gave me the freedom to make his vision my own.
And he takes traditional formats and takes them to a whole new level. How exciting is that?
I sense a change. A change in how theatre companies work. Away from tyranny to true collaboration under direction. Away from big egos to big humans.
But also a change in what audiences are being invited to. Away from passive consummation to fine dining. Without the massive bill at the end.
Maybe that’s been happening for a long time already and I’m only aware of it now. Either way it’s exciting. We can be excited for a new wave of theatre guided by a new generation of directors.
If you get a chance to see James’ work, go and see it.
If you get a chance to work with him, do it!
“Theatre is a living organism. You only know if your show is working when you see it with an audience.”
I read a great article in the guardian today and it reminded of something I’ve been thinking about for a while. Tom Cruise.
To be honest, Tom is not a lot on my mind. I had to think about how to spell his surname. I think I got it right. And I’m not too familiar with his work.
I thought about how much artistic freedom does he have. And how much does he take for himself.
He seems to be on top (of… something) and I wonder how much he expects himself to deliver and how much he is willing to take risks.
A risk includes the possibility to make a fool out of yourself.
Like doing a mission impossible with a fake French accent. Potentially great. And potentially shit.
Enough about Tom. I’m sure he’s a good man.
In my work I do feel the pressure to deliver. People who hire me to be an illusionist as part of their gatherings expect me to deliver – the same way you expect a carpenter to build a table that works, and not one that might work.
I honour their expectations and fulfil them as much as humanly possible.
But to grow as an artist I need space to take risks and potentially make a fool out of myself. The same way a carpenter builds funky new tables in his spare time . Tables that might not work.
I think as a society we need space for experiments. We need to be able to fail.
One time I was invited to participate in artsy East London night of performances – and I decided to try something with a high chance of failure. Not because of lack of preparation or work on my part, but because I was entering very new territory. I thought I’m not getting paid for this, so I might as well go for it. And I did.
And I failed.
In front of 60 people.
And I was still alive.
What an experience. I can recommend it. It teaches you to find your self worth not in your achievements. Or lack of achievements. And it makes you free.
Not forever, but for a while.
And then? A guy came to me afterwards and said: “I like your style. I’d like to hire you to perform at my birthday.”
And I did. And I delivered. Hmmm.
“Theatre is a living organism. You only know if your show is working when you see it with an audience.”
The last two months have been very busy. We have left London and moved into a beautiful flat in Vienna and at the same time I’ve travelled a lot doing gigs all over Austria.
I have just returned from a week of rehearsals and performances in England. Every year the brave people of #Stockton put on the #SIRF festival.
I’ll introduce the company, director and my amazing collaborators over the next weeks, but first I’d like to share my experience of the last week.
As an illusionist I’m very much used to working alone, setting my own goals and challenges – rehearsing and performing by myself.
There is a lot of joy and freedom in that – but I didn’t know how much I was missing out until last week.
How much I was missing out on challenges. I’m used to exploring what I can do, but working with other people I was very much pushed to explore what I didn’t know I could do or even explore things I thought I could not do.
Now this exciting.
Finding that you can do some of them and still can’t do some others.
This is a very important aspect of my work for me. Leaving what’s safe and comfortable.
I’m very happy with that (quite recent) development. My education encouraged me to stay safe – with the tried and tested;
Encouraged that part of me that wants to stay safe.
I’m not sure.
Maybe a desire to experience more?
More of the “human” experience, more of myself?
Sometimes I see people who seem to have a very strong sense of who they are. A very strong sense that doesn’t leave much space for change.
I don’t like that very much.
For myself that is.
I enjoy knowing more of who I am, but I enjoy staying open to who I can be.
I was very lucky last week to find new friends who showed me who I can be, who were not afraid to be afraid. Who were not afraid to be silly.
What a beautiful experience. I can highly recommend it.
I’ve decided to abandon iweb in favour of WordPress. Hence I’m stopping my old blog and start again fresh.
I’m returning from the fantastic SIRF festival, where I was part of Slung Low’s Instant Light Circus under the direction of James Blakey, an extraordinary director.
The cast was incredible and I’ll introduce them (and beautiful Slung Low) over the next week.
I’m stopping in London for an hour. It feels strange to be back after living here for so many years. But it’s still pleasant to enjoy a coffee before flying to my new home Vienna.