The historic RMS Queen Mary has once again opened its doors to give guests a chance to peer into the afterlife with the help of resident magician Aiden Sinclair in Illusions of the Passed; Legends of the Queen Mary, A Theatrical Séance! Taking place in the newly-christened Revenant Room, a dimly-lit lounge space featuring hostesses in cocktail dresses and victory rolls and appointed with comfy lounge chairs among a smattering of supposedly cursed relics, Sinclair leads guests on a journey through history, filled with hope, tragedy, and a touch of magic. The storytelling begins as soon as you step foot into the space, with the narrow hallway leading to the lounge proper being lined with images of those that perished during it’s more than 30 years of service and the air of mourning weighing heavy with artifacts from traumatic moments such as the sinking of the Titanic and the Hartford Circus fire.
After stopping for a drink at the bar, which features a number of exotic selections, including a drink made with hickory smoke, we made our way to an intimate theater space, sparsely decorated with an ornate display case featuring pictures of historical passengers and famous faces that passed through on one of the Queen Mary’s numerous voyages. A classic radio voice comes over the speakers announcing the paranormal nature of the show to come and giving guests who might be sensitive to this sort of material one final chance to retreat before the commencement of the séance.
The foundations of the art of theatrical séance can be traced back to the work of Harry Houdini, who started performing them as a sort of parody of what he perceived as the frauds of the day, deluding people into believing in the supernatural through illusion and misdirection. Sinclair is one of the few remaining practitioners of this art and has performed elements of this presentation on shows like America’s Got Talent and Penn & Teller: Fool Us. Sinclair seems to take a similar approach to Houdini in some of his performances, viewing this bit of theater as a deconstruction of charlatanism, but here the show takes on a more agnostic perspective, as guests are invited to simply observe and experience, forming their own perspectives as to whether what they’re experiencing is evidence of the supernatural or simply a compelling performance.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night was Sinclair himself. I wasn’t familiar with his work going in and most of his promotional images present him as stone-faced and severe, so I was expecting a similarly solemn affair, but Sinclair is an astute storyteller with an awareness of the flow of his performance. The subject matter is often tragic in nature and he commands the dramatic gravitas to bring the lights down when it’s called for but equally important to the success of the show is his dry wit and a penchant for self-effacing humor. The orchestration is deftly-tuned so that each movement of its funeral dirge is contrasted with moments of inspiration and levity. The magic itself was compelling in blurring the line between illusion and ghostly intervention but also in how it was seamlessly integrated into each story and encouraged the audience to become active participants in the narrative. Legends of the Queen Mary, A Theatrical Séance! Is not a particularly flashy show and it doesn’t set out to push the envelope in terms of extravagant showmanship, instead choosing to use magic as a tool to add weight and richness to its setting and characters. Those with an appreciation for morbid biographies and relics pulled from tragic circumstances should consider checking this one out, particularly as a complementary experience to some of the other paranormal and historical offerings available on the Queen Mary.
Purchase your tickets for at queenmary.com.