DAS FEST (The Party), is an immersive, mind reading experience from illusionist Philipp Oberlohr and is his sequel to DAS SPIEL (The Game); a piece that was bestowed the People’s Choice Award in 2016. Needless to say expectations are high. In fact, Oberlohr himself addresses this at the start of the show, with the aim of surpassing these as the evening progresses. Unfortunately this was not to be the case.
The night begins well enough. A mischievous Oberlohr can be seen peering round the set as the audience take their seats. Not entirely sure if this is part of the act or not – it certainly attracts enough attention to feed everyone’s intrigue. Similarly, the set design gives little away in terms of what is yet to come. Only two chairs and a microphone stand fill the space, literally and metaphorically, leaving plenty of room for interpretation. The use of eerie choral music to accompany Oberlohr’s entrance proves successful in adding a further suspense and mystique to the piece, so that when it eventually becomes time for the first illusion, everyone is keen to participate, each individual vying to be Oberlohr’s guinea pig and rummaging maniacally under their seats to find the carefully placed pieces of paper. One side of the audience is asked to write down a memory and to place it in an envelope – as the past is sealed. The other half of the audience is prompted to write down a dare for the future, but this time to keep it out – as the future is open. A nice message and more importantly a clever ruse that allows everyone to feel part of the act without Oberlohr even having to lift a finger. However, it soon becomes clear that the trick isn’t running as smoothly as expected. Maybe this is part of the act? A Tommy Cooper-esque shtick? Maybe there’ll be some big reveal, proving Oberlohr knew all long? Maybe not. The disappointment from the crowd is palpable and unfortunately the show never fully recovers from there.
Without giving too much away, the bulk of the performance is made up from random monologues – stories which are later revealed to hold more importance than originally thought. However, for this illusion to be successful, it needs audience affirmation, an opportunity that is not presented often enough and therefore resulting in reactions that manifest confusion, as opposed to awe or amazement. Although the piece contains some meaningful messages, these have little to do with the show as a whole and even Oberlohr’s charm is not enough to save DAS FEST from looking more like a hotchpotch of ideas, than a fully fledged act. This can be seen in the choice of music, with pieces ranging from Opera to Pulp Fiction, neither of which seem fitting for the ‘party’ atmosphere.
Although the remainder of Oberlohr’s mind readings prove correct, most of these are met with a small amount of vocal approval; with only one trick throughout the whole show garnering a round of applause. Maybe part of the fascination of Das Fest, and perhaps it’s greatest tool, is the element of the unknown. The FOMO factor, if you will – ensuring the audience remain in their seats throughout the whole performance, so even if the show isn’t going well, the crowd will remain, eager and hopeful for what, if anything, is left to come.