“Does anyone like Pepsi?” Kaori Kitazawa cheerfully enquires from behind the bar, before conjuring up a crumpled old can to the handful of onlookers perched on stools. With a wave of her hand the “kawaii princess of illusion” then seemingly defies the universal laws of time, entropy and soft drink – to the table’s astonished delight.

A few more tricks and Kitazawa glides away, replaced by the next act in the rotating line-up of magicians, who all perform a micro-set for each table of patrons.

Joining Kitazawa are Johnny Balance, perching objects on his chin; Shohgo Yamashita, with his storytelling magic; Jonio, plucking surprises from his “weird beard”, and the unpredictable wildcard Sarito.

Each performer’s feats are all the more impressive for duping the audience from the intimate vantage point of about a metre or two away, rather than a distant stage. The sleights of hand are performed with plenty of flourish and humour, but are a little heavy on one-note card tricks and would benefit from more diversity.

Photo: Kate Prendergast

The interior of the bespoke venue is as vibrant as the front facade, with cherry blossoms delicately dangling over a circle of well-stocked bars. It must all have cost a fair few yen, however – with tickets starting from $58, patrons are also asked to buy at least one drink from the Japanese-flavoured menu featuring sake-tini cocktails and shochu served neat.

A “special menu” additionally offers patrons the opportunity to pay $10 for extra magic experiences, such as the “Crazy Panda Cameo” or the “Kareshi (Boyfriend) Experience”. On the upside, there’s no risk of being called up onto the centre-stage unless you want to be – or if your friends are willing to pay to see you dragged there.

A must-see for lovers of magic or Japanese kitsch; for everyone else, Maho Magic Bar’s most impressive trick might be getting them to wake up the next day with their money vanished.

Maho Magic Bar is at the Garden of Unearthly Delights every night except Mondays until March 20.

Read more 2022 Adelaide Fringe stories and reviews here.

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