Review: Kayfabe by Max Maven and Luis De Matos

[vc_row][vc_column width=”2/3″][vc_custom_heading text=”Reviewer: Madame Curator”][vc_column_text]Kayfabe /ˈkeɪfeɪb/ is the portrayal of staged events within the professional wrestling industry as “real” or “true”, specifically the portrayal of competition, rivalries, and relationships between participants as being genuine and not of a staged or predetermined nature of any kind.

I first learnt about this interesting term from a diehard WWE fan who also educated me about the “heel” VS “face” lingo several years ago, and personally, I found it deeply fascinating how professional wrestling was really all entertainment with scripted storylines and characters who had to stay true to their character arc and narrative. It is also so very apt that Max Maven aka Phil Goldstein has decided to call his latest work “Kayfabe”.

The father of modern magic, Jean Eugene Robert-Houdin, has been quoted in many books for stating that “a magician is an actor playing the part of a magician” and I cannot agree more, which is why as a full-time entertainer, I made a professional choice of playing a character; it creates a clear distinction of self versus persona. And I believe that’s why the brilliant Phil Goldstein created his famous alter ego, Max Maven.

Having cut my teeth on mentalism through his earlier work, Video Mind, I have always been a huge fan girl. So I was elated when I had the opportunity to work closely with Max for a month when we were filming an Italian TV show in Rome back in 2012. The man is speaks several languages and is truly a walking encyclopaedia of magic history and knowledge. Despite his over-achievements, Max as a person is incredibly humble and authentic, and we could speak about everything (even about eye make-up)!

Kayfabe has been Max’s highly anticipated masterclass, and I’m so glad it’s been made because the man has been so busy with his work on the international stage and various TV projects. The high quality 4 disc DVD package, produced by the fine folks at Luis De Matos’ Essential Magic Collection (EMC), has over 9 hours of mentalism (Disc 1) and card magic (Disc 2 & 3). Filmed in Portugal, English is the spoken medium but it is subtitled in English, French, Spanish and Japanese.

This DVD box set is much more than just about “tricks”. As a bonus, writer/ director Donna Zuckerbrot, who produced several documentaries (The Houdini Code, Aleister Crowley: The Beast 666, etc) includes her latest work “Max Maven: A Fabulous Monster” on Disc 4, celebrating the incredible life work and journey of this amazing mystery performer. A thought provoking interview between host Luis and Max is also featured on the same disc, and Max gives a bit of an insight of what makes his brilliant mind tick in The Fragility of Mystery.

Touching on the contents featured in the first three discs, I really enjoyed Max’s original spin to some much loved classics, e.g. Scrutability, his take on The Professor’s The Card Trick That Cannot Be Explained. And there’s also some dramatic effects like Caesarean Section, which is a card stab effect that seems extremely clean and impossible. Right after finishing the teach-in, I was really inspired to try out Cognomen (celebrity name divination), About Face (psychometry routine), and Round About (a triple card revelation)!

Priced at US$150, the boxset of 4 DVDs (each poetically named after the 4 seasons) is a worthwhile investment for those passionate about learning the “real secrets” from a true master mentalist as Max teaches these clever gems which he has kept secret for four decades! They truly are incredibly powerful professional routines with entertaining narratives, slick staging and a devious approach to method. Highly recommended!

Magic is our passion but we are not a magic shop ? You can purchase this here!


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Ning Cai is a Singapore Literature Prize nominated author, who was also long listed for the Epigram Books Fiction Prize in 2016. A bestselling writer, she is also recognised for her illusionist/ escapologist stage character Magic Babe Ning, and recognised by Channel News Asia as South East Asia's first professional female magician.

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