He’s dressed from head to toe in black Javier Jarquin pounces on stage as the eponymous Card Ninja. To his right is a table stacked with sealed packs of normal sized playing cards. Is this a magic show? A stand-up routine? Or a children’s entertainment act?
The Card Ninja greets the audience and thanks them for giving up their Sunday afternoon. He informs the audience he’s from New Zealand and enquires where others are from. So far this has all the hallmarks of a standard ‘stand-up’ routine. On the contrary, Javier reiterates the point that this hour-long, master class is not a magic show – he doesn’t do tricks. Rather, it’s a demonstration of ‘Extreme Card Manipulation’, that contains Ninjas.
When growing up Javier, like many, was heavily influenced by martial arts films. Think Bruce Lee’s Enter the Dragon. His retelling of the story still possesses the passion he must have intrinsically had in his youth. As a result, he wanted to become a Ninja. A warrior, skilled in martial arts and able to take on multiple opponents at any one time. However, he had one drawback – he didn’t have any weapons. Enter the cards. Night after night. Day after day Javier would practice until eventually, he could make cards his weapon and make his weapon into an art form.
We’re informed that in order to become a Ninja a student must undertake a number of trials. Trials that test one’s speed, accuracy and agility. Javier confirms that this is the same for an aspiring Card Ninja. With that cue volunteers are, one by one, encouraged to participate. While Javier throws cards from one end of the stage to the other, the first volunteer has to catch the moving projectile; then punch it. This is followed by the second volunteer who has to perform a version of ‘keepy-uppy’ with a balloon while The Card Ninja attempts to burst the balloon with the toss of a card.
With each trial the tension in the room rises as the perceived levels of difficulty increase. You will see things done with cards that will leave you gob smacked and wondering why no one has ever done this before; or more likely why haven’t we seen this done before? Cards are fired like lasers across the stage. They’re juggled and used as boomerangs.
This show has two main strengths. The first is Javier’s unquestionable skill and dexterity with cards; the second is his stand-up, comedic delivery which is as good as if not better than some comics, who use no props at all.
He has boundless energy which he controls and directs at will ensuring audience engagement and participation. It’s this that lifts this event from simply being a traditional children’s entertainment act into something more.
The finale of the show is a full-on dance martial arts extravaganza. The stage is lite blood red, and the Card Ninja fights invisible foes using kicks, flicks and laser like cards projectiles. This is underscored by theme music from Electric 6 and traditional martial arts punch and kick sound effects. My one quibble is that there wasn’t more of this.
The show is labelled Card Ninja and you’ll leave having learnt a little more about cards and Ninjas – the real lesson of the show however is – ‘believe in your dreams’, we’re all Ninjas and no matter what your walk of life, with enough practice, you too can employ these skills.★ ★ ★ ★
Card Ninja was at The Lowry, Salford Quays on 15 September 2019.
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