Use Your Illusion

Scottish illusionist performs over dinner in Eugene

Photo by Jeff Smith

Scott Silven traces his fascination with illusion back to his grandfather. “My granddad showed me a trick when I was 6 years old,” the Scottish illusionist says. It involved a piece of candy disappearing, only to reappear inside of a box. “There was something really alluring about taking something very logical and creating this strange ethereal wonder from it.”

I am speaking with Silven in the lobby of the Graduate Eugene hotel. He’s in town to present his one-man show, At the Illusionist’s Table, which runs through March 1 at Wildcraft Cider Works.

After his grandfather opened the door, magic became Silven’s North Star. “I knew that’s what fascinated me. That’s what I wanted to focus on. I went about gathering different sets of skills that would contribute to that somehow.” 

In addition to studying illusion and mentalism, Silven studied hypnosis and later studied theater and psychology at university.

When developing Illusionist’s Table, Silven wanted to create something that had a more authentic connection with the audience than traditional magic shows. “There’s a narrative touch to it,” he says.

“As an illusionist that does mentalism, everything is about the connection with the audience. It’s a very interactive and personal experience,” Silven says. “My guests join me around the table within a secret space in the cidery that’s never been revealed before. We’re going to share amazing foods, whiskey and illusion, all while sharing this amazing story from my past.”

Having seen Silven’s show, it’s challenging to know what to reveal and what to keep secret. What you see really will make your head swim. I’ll start with the food, a fantastic three-course meal, provided by The Davis Restaurant and Bar.

We began with The Sea (seared diver scallops, local mushroom tea, micro herbs and greens). Next, The Forest (Fruitwood smoked duck breast, dried fruit gastrique, creamy polenta, and chard) and, finally, dessert, or The Study (dark chocolate and orange pot au crème, orange salt, and Gran Mariner whipped cream). Intercut with the food are whiskey and cider tastings.

But the star is, of course, Silven and his illusions. Between courses, he leads the audience (his dinner guests?) through a story from his past, referencing his grandfather and how fate led a table of strangers to be in the same room at the same time, as well as the sensory experience of the evening. The room is mysterious. I won’t say more than that.

“I wanted to have an origin story, how I got started and what I did: to highlight the first experience of wonder in my life. I looked back into my past — my childhood in the forests of Scotland, my grandad,” Silven says.

During the show, you’ll see card, number and memory tricks as well as a sketching trick and several big reveals that are exquisite — but again, I can’t reveal too much. In the end, Silven even managed somehow to customize a trick just for me. 

Ticket prices deserve a mention, because they’re quite high, though a ticket gets you a remarkable show with dinner and drinks. 

This is definitely a special occasion event, but if you’ve been saving up for one, I urge you to go see At the Illusionist’s Table. It’s well worth it. 

“I use a variety of techniques — psychological techniques and traditional magic techniques to create a piece of theater,” he adds. The audience can believe what they want to believe.

“I’m not trying to convince people that I can actually read minds or convince people that magic is real,” Silven continues, before quoting Francis Bacon: “The job of the artist is to deepen the mystery.”

At the Illusionist’s Table runs through March 1 at Wildcraft Cider Works; $250-$290, 21-plus. 

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