Fringing can be hard. And I’m not talking about the artists sweating it out in tents and rooms across Adelaide on sweltering summer evenings. The average punter, trying to get their money’s worth from a night off domestic duties, hurrying between tents in search of brilliance to illuminate their lives, can also arrive a little less enthusiastic than they began.

So it was on a hot Sunday night as the line finally moved 15 minutes after the 9.15pm start time to get into Ben Hart: Hex at the plank fortress called the Factory in the Garden of Unearthly Delights. Forgive me for sitting down on the cushioned bench, a lukewarm beer in hand, thinking: “This better be good…”

Five minutes in, as Hart bumbles around the stage doing some cool but predictable sleight-of-hand tricks, and I am thinking, “Oh no”.

Seven minutes in and it hits me: this guy’s a genius. And his magic is pretty good, too.

Because the magic of this performance about witchcraft and the occult is storytelling so subtle you have no idea Hart is expertly leading you down a path – which ends abruptly with tricks so ingenious it’s only then you wake from the spell.

It’s a crescendo that sneaks up on an unsuspecting audience that is concentrating on his words and his mesmerising voice so much that somehow he manages to pull much more than a rabbit out of a hat or a card out of his sleeve (no spoilers here).

Between the storytelling and the tricks, Hart’s banter with the crowd is also heartfelt and fun, and he literally gets right into it, climbing up the bleachers to grab personal items off audience members.

Do yourself a favour, slow down, sit back and marvel at Hart… and if you figure out how the time flies from start to finish, shout out. I am still wondering.

Ben Hart: HEX is playing at The Factory at the Garden of Unearthly Delights until March 17.

Read more 2024 Adelaide Fringe coverage here on InReview.

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