Fringe Review: The Expert at the Card Table – How to Cheat at Cards

Words by Lewis Brideson

A magician never reveals his secrets… or something like that?

In The Expert at the Card Table – How to Cheat at Cards, local magician Jden Redden breaks this fundamental rule - and maybe that is why it works.

Redden’s Adelaide Fringe show is held out of Tuxedo Cat, now relocated to the former Telecom-Trust heritage-listed building on Franklin Street. Expect something low-key and intimate; a small bunch of people summoned to a room and seated around a card table. Here Redden demonstrates spades of card flourishes and dirty gambling secrets, focusing on card manipulation rather than ‘magic’. The demonstration is also shuffled together with a lesson in card cheats through history and the mysterious S. W. Erdnase, author of the card-cult-bible, The Expert at The Card Table published in 1902.

Whilst modern audiences might not be naive or patient enough for ‘traditional magic’, there will always be something intriguing about a scam. It’s about learning a magic trick when you’re a kid just to fool friends in the schoolyard, or watching Rounders one too many times and thinking you have a leg up at poker. This is what Redden’s show taps in to, people’s desire to know secrets, learn how to manipulate and win. Sure it breaks the magician’s code, but maybe it’s more entertaining to learn how things work. It’s certainly more impressive to be shown where the smoke, mirrors and fishing-line are and still trip.

However the show is very informative and at times feeling like an extra-curricular tute, which runs the risk of being a tad dull if cards aren’t your thing. There’s also the other students in the class wanting to become part of the act: that guy who plays online poker so thinks he’s on to it all, that lady who keeps reminding everyone she’s only good at strip poker for no apparent reason.

The Expert at the Card Table – How to Cheat at Cards is the kind of small locally produced show to take a risk on, as it keeps the Fringe honest. It’ll also keep honest that annoying mate who thinks they can count cards – take them and they’re bound to never shut up.

Check out more shows from Jden Redden’s magic production firm Fascinating Lies here.