I first met Helder Guimarães in 2016. He had invited me to a convenience store on an unassuming street in Los Angeles. But with Guimarães, what he shows you is not always what it seems. I grabbed a bag of candy, which the cashier told me I did not need to pay for and stepped into a photobooth for a picture. A moment later, I stepped out again, but the convenience store was gone—and I now stood in a magical wonderland of twinkling lights, overgrown trees, ransacked drawers, and delicate musical notes wafting through the air. This was Borrowed Time, an intimate immersive magic experience performed for only fifteen lucky patrons a night. Fast-forward to 2020, Guimarães is once again offering his intimate blend of magic and storytelling in The Future—I bought a ticket immediately, excited to join him in his world of magic once more.
Helder Guimarães’ The Future is an hour and a half immersive Zoom experience that is part storytelling, part magic show, and part audience experience. Similar to The Present, participants are mailed a mysterious black cylinder marked only with the text: Helder Guimarães’ The Future. Audiences are asked not to open it until the experience begins, as this cylinder provides the gateway into the audience interactivity and participation in The Future. Further, it’s the role of the audience to actively vote in this experience to determine the path Helder Guimarães’ The Future takes. With this level of agency (at a larger scale), it provides a sense of choice, as well as a question of what if—as the paths you don’t take may linger in your mind.
Much like all of Guimarães’ performances, they are much more than a magic show; they are a story—a look into Guimarães’ life. While prior stories have focused on his relationship with his grandfather, the mystery of Santa Claus, and more, Helder Guimarães’ The Future focuses on the intertwined relationship he has with Kevin, a British slight-of-hand cardshark that Guimarães idolizes and ultimately befriends. The story is exciting, thought-provoking, and surprisingly deep for a magic show. Much like any magic trick, the answers aren’t given, but rather, left to the audience to decide. Another chance for our self-reflection to influence not just the narrative, but our own future moving forward.
It’s in this self-reflection and wonder that the show succeeds. Guimarães doesn’t just provide an entertaining show; he also provides a lesson in defining our own values and how they change with time. We are not static images of ourselves, but rather dynamic beings that change, grow, and break rules we may have set for ourselves. It’s a beautiful message, and not a heavy handed one, but a nuanced one that may be missed by those just fascinated by his sleight of hand.
The magic tricks are incredible, building upon his previous shows, providing further proof that he’s one of the absolute best playing card magicians in the world. Guimarães utilizes some of the tricks he learned from Kevin in the experience, tying the narrative back to the magic throughout. They happen with such precision and grace that they appear nearly invisible to us. If it wasn’t a live show, you would swear there was some fancy editing built in.
While The Present took place entirely within Guimarães’ home, The Future plays far more into expectation and surprise. Guimarães utilizes multiple sets, each representing different locations from his story. It’s in this manner that audience is further connected into his story, watching the various scenes unfold directly before your eyes. And expectation does not always align with reality; thus, sets shift and change almost as easily as the tricks Guimarães performs transform in front of your eyes. With the sets offering almost as much spectacle as the tricks, the Geffen and director Frank Marshall have gone above and beyond to bring the audience from their couches into Guimarães’ world. It’s truly a visual treat.
The only small criticism I have for this experience is the increased audience size. One aspect of Guimarães’ experiences is the intimacy—and while intimacy and Zoom seem to be at odds already, the audience size is increased to approximately fifty participants in this experience. In Borrowed Time and The Present, almost every audience member who wanted interaction was given the opportunity; but in The Future, that interaction was not seen. Rather, it was replaced with audience voting and small moments of engagement for a few lucky audience members. I just hope that the real future offers a return to the small, intimate experiences of Guimarães’ past.
The Future is an engaging, thoughtful, and meaningful experience. It is a strong sequel to The Present and provides a bit of wonder and excitement during times of quarantine. If you’re a fan of magic, storytelling, or just a good trick, I highly recommend this experience. It’s a look into a brighter future.