Before Karma Gets Us: Magic, Chaos, and Clowns

Imagine someone tripping, catching themselves, and trying to play it off with some quirky slapstick, eyebrow raises, and maybe even a wink. Now imagine three clowns, magic, medical procedures, meticulously rehearsed choreography, and murder. Add all of this together and you have Before Karma Gets Us, a rollicking rollercoaster of comedic chaos.

Before Karma Gets Us is created and performed by Ariāna Osborne, Liv Parker and Tess Sullivan. An enigmatic magician, Mikhail Clinkler (Tess Sullivan), accompanied by his distressed assistants, Russlan (Ariāna Osborne) and Ludmiller (Liv Parker), perform an hour-and-a-half-long variety show full of magic, dance, music, monologue, and everything else in between. 

It is hilariously absurd, and extremely hard to explain in some ways. It was described to me as clown variety vaudeville—this description alone was enough to make me want to go.

Some of the notes I took for this show read as follows:

  • Seahorse sweeties
  • Whack-a-mole
  • Herbert the sound guy
  • Medical procedures
  • “…and the king was rather tall and good at doing things”
  • Séance
  • A haunting recorder rendition of God Save the Queen
  • William Wallace with bagpipes (surprisingly good at bagpipes!)
  • Ghost stories
  • Murder

The variety element was what made the show successful for me. The audience was forcibly pulled from section to section, sometimes without time to recover from what we had just witnessed (and when I say recover, I genuinely mean it—I spent a lot of this show doubled over laughing and/or with tears in my eyes). My favourite set of juxtaposed segments was one of the very many dance routines interspersed throughout the show, followed by a stirring monologue from Clinkler, Magician Supreme, about his entry into the world of magic. The dance beforehand was introduced “…and now, one for the kids.” Salt-N-Pepa’s Push It blasted through the speakers, accompanied by a sexy display on stage. This kind of comedy underpinned much of the show.

We had instances of classic card tricks being done badly to uproarious laughter. One instance of this, where the devil was conjured to assist with a card trick, involved repeating the same element of the trick over and over again to the same result (failure). At the end of a failed trick, the performer would usually run off the stage, with some level of shame and embarrassment, only to emerge one second later with the other two clowns for the next sketch. 

On the other hand, some classic magic tricks were masterfully pulled off. For someone like me who hasn’t been to a lot of magic shows, seeing the classic woman being sawed in half trick was very cool—and, of course, they managed to make it extra special with their unique collection of comedic characters. 

In a nested narrative, sketch comedy sat around and on top of the magic show. Although we witnessed a scripted show, there were instances of the fourth wall being broken to all but poke fun at the circumstances on stage. It was a very clever way of bringing the audience along for the journey – it almost felt like we were privy to an inside joke.You can see how one might have a hard time nailing down exactly what it was about this show that was so good—but it was so good. Before Karma Gets Us truly is a one-of-a-kind theatrical experience.

Featured photos by Andi Crown courtesy of A Mulled Whine.


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