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Museum performers recreate old magic

19 MARCH 2003

Australia's most successful but now largely forgotten magician will be brought back to life in a performance work during a unique two-week residency this month at the National Museum of Australia in Canberra.

Producer Thor Blomfield, who founded the internationally-acclaimed Legs on the Wall physical theatre company and regularly dabbles in magic, is leading a team to workshop the life and times of the Great Levante.

"The Great Levante was Australia's foremost magician in the 1930s and 40s. He amazed audiences at home and across the world and was considered by many to be superior to Houdini yet I hadn't heard of him until I visited the National Museum," Blomfield said.

A saw used by the Great Levante to 'cut a woman in half' features in the National Museum's Eternity Gallery, which explores stories from the emotional heart of Australia.

Blomfield, in conjunction with director Patrick Nolan and playwright Alana Valentine, received funding from the Australia Council and the National Museum to workshop the Levante concept.

"During the residency we'll meet Museum curators, explore Levante's life and re-enact some of his famous tricks. At the end of the fortnight, on March 28, we'll have a blueprint script for a performance which recreates Levante's character and explores how his story relates to Australian audiences today," Blomfield said.

Blomfield, Nolan and Valentine are working with designer Gabriela Tylesova and performer Lucia Mastrantone to bring the Levante story to life. Their performance residency is concurrent with the residency of young Vietnamese Australian writer, Hoa Pham, who is exploring other Museum stories through her writing and storytelling.

"We're committed to using these types of programs as yet another way of expressing the National Museum's stories," National Museum Public Programs Manager Louise Douglas said. "The Levante project promises to be lively and engaging, showing how theatre can be used with creativity in a museum environment."

The Levante concept piece will be presented to the Australia Council and the Museum's Performance Advisory Group, established at a museum theatre national forum held at the National Museum last year.

For more images, achival footage of Levante and interviews please contact Martin Portus on 02 6208 5351, 0409 916 481 or email m.portus@nma.gov.au