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The survival skills of a mentalist

Adelaide Fringe

You'd think Matt Tarrant's mentalist skills would have given him an edge on Australian Survivor, but the Adelaide Fringe artist says there's one big difference between reality-show contestants and show audiences.

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“People I have on stage at a show are not there to try to outwit me; they don’t want to try to fool me,” the Adelaide performer told InDaily ahead of the opening of his season at Gluttony.

“There were a couple of times [on Survivor] when I got reads on certain people about things but I wasn’t able to trust that … sometimes you just don’t know when people are lying to you or being truthful and sometimes they don’t even know.

“I say Survivor is like 10 per cent physical and the rest is a mental challenge … it’s pretty tough.”

Tarrant – whose Fringe show is aptly titled Honestly Dishonest – did manage to “outwit, outplay and outlast” many of his fellow contestants on the 2016 season of the show before becoming the fifth to last person voted out.

The 51 days he spent on the deserted beach took a toll. He left mentally drained and 14 kilograms lighter (“I put it all back on pretty quickly”), as well as with a clearer understanding of the ways of reality television.

“I learned a bit about TV, in that what you see isn’t necessarily what you get, which is true of the entertainment world as a whole … it changed how I watch TV.”

The Survivor experience may have provided Tarrant with valuable exposure, but he already had a successful career, having won a string of Adelaide Fringe awards in recent years. After performing his first stage show in a tiny tent in Gluttony in 2013, this year he has returned for his biggest show yet in two much larger Gluttony venues.

Honestly Dishonest – described as “a collection of my favourite pieces of magic, storytelling with a pinch of comedy” – was performed at last year’s Fringe, but has evolved slightly with new effects and routines, Tarrant says.

“It’s basically a magic show which is really entertaining and interactive, so we make sure everyone gets involved.

“It goes along the path of what it’s like to be inspired by magic shows and then get involved in it.”

The performance follows the trajectory of his own career, beginning with card magic and what he describes as “comedy magic”, before progressing into routines involving mentalist skills such as mind reading and body language reading.

“I end the show with the best mentalism I do, and one of the best pieces of magic.”

The interactive element is integral to Honestly Dishonest: “Everything I do on stage involves someone … no one is ever forced to come up on stage, but it’s there to give them a moment.

“I remember when I was young, how much as a kid I wanted to be up on stage but I never got that.”

Tarrant arrived home in Adelaide this week after 26 shows at the Perth Fringe, which ended only on Monday. He has a relentless run lined up at Gluttony – with almost nightly shows at The Peacock until March 5, then performances at The Octagon every night from March 7-19.

“It’s going to be a harder stretch than Survivor, to be honest!”

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