Jasper Blakeley as ‘Kockov’
Sunday 6th March 2010
Reviewed by Ian Rowland
Jasper Blakeley occupies a unique position in the magic world. Although he does sometimes work as himself, for most stage and cabaret shows he prefers to transform into any one of about 16 different characters he has devised over the years. A professionally trained actor, he immerses himself so completely in his well-studied comic creations that the real Jasper more or less vanishes from the scene. His most popular and enduring creation to date is Kockov, a fast-talking, mullet-haired magician and mind-reader from the East European state of Monrokvia (a place found only in the atlas of Jasper’s febrile imagination). It was as Kockov that he took to the stage for his sell-out show at Cardiff’s Millennium Centre.
Kockov presented eight routines in all, the majority being familiar plots (Bank Nite, Add-A-Number and so on) re-imagined for contemporary audiences, with plenty of comic and creative twists along the way. However, the slick, professional delivery of some smart mentalism routines is only part of the story. Jasper is one of the very few performers who know how to make mentalism funny, which is no mean feat. A first-rate script, packed with neat gags and asides, is part of the formula. However, the real joy of the show stems from Jasper’s rapid-fire interplay with the audience. No matter what happens or what people say, Kockov is there with an instant retort or comeback.
It’s an impressive display of sharp wits and smart humour, distilled from many, many years learning his craft in front of real audiences. Jasper’s mind is like a fizzing fountain of lines, twists, gags, asides and bits of business, seemingly without end. At one point he even offered a glorious few seconds of mime – displaying a spectator’s current status on the evolutionary ladder – that brilliantly captured the comedy of the moment and won its own round of applause. The humour is sometimes a little abrasive (Kockov has not fully adapted to some of our more gentle social conventions), but never crass or offensive.
The show was well produced and presented. In particular, there was excellent use of sound effects and music throughout. Jasper used to be a radio producer and audio technician, and for this show he devised something like 24 original tracks of music, effects and ambient sound, all of which greatly enhanced the performance. The presentation for his signature ‘Russian Roulette’ routine was very dramatically effective.
Room for improvement? Maybe. Sometimes the ‘procedural’ aspects of the routines dragged a little and could do with a re-think, and one routine suffered from the kind of maddening technical glitch that even thorough rehearsal cannot entirely prevent. However, these are minor points that in no way detracted from the show.
This was a solid performance from a unique talent, combining a high degree of professionalism with truly impressive comic flair. A very satisfied audience filed out of the WMC thoroughly baffled by the ‘mind skills’ on display, but also rather exhausted from laughing so much.
© Ian Rowland, March 2010