There’s a cacophonous hubbub that’s almost overwhelming at the beginning of The Disappearing of Vincent Gambini. So much chatter and the overlapping of people’s lives, before the ear acclimatises and realises that this is just the sound of ordinary life, in a cafe. The cafe in question stands boarded up on the Brighton seafront. This disconnect confronts us to admit that those normal noises and environments are a far cry from the current situation of eased lockdown, or particularly from the initial lockdown of March 2020- the immediate setting for this short film.
Augusto Corrieri has made this film, as he explains in a phone call to filmmaker Hugo Glendinning (revealed to be recorded verbatim from their real conversation), to bridge the gap between a spate of cancelled tour shows for his magician persona, Vincent Gambini, and whatever comes next. As a result, the piece has a largely introspective, contemplative feel that, viewed a year on, almost inspires nostalgia. The cancelled show in question, The Chore of Enchantment, finds a frustrated Gambini ready to quit in the face of a worsening news cycle. If anything, The Disappearing of Vincent Gambini proves his point: rather than refuse to perform magic any more, the persona is forced by world events to down wands entirely.
There is definitely a sense of isolation which Corrieri attempts to force-trick his audience into feeling. Multiple shots of empty and locked up shops along Brighton’s high street are juxtaposed with lights on in sole flats across the city. However, it’s hard to ignore the signs of life reflected in the empty window of Zara. We’re asked to focus on the lifeless mannequins but this ignores the gang of skateboarders in the reflection of the window, proof that despite the worst happening, life (and surely, life in Brighton especially, as the UK’s signature quirky seaside town – don’t tell Whitby I said this) does go on.
By ignoring the action behind the camera and instead choosing to draw attention to a standstill, it feels like Corrieri is almost wilfully embedding himself further in isolation. By choosing to show himself only in his flat or in old footage, Corrieri creates a lonely bubble for himself which garners sympathy for the man who’s been abandoned even by his onstage persona. This is reflected in his many conversations with Glendinning’s voicemail. That Corrieri can’t get hold of him is a refreshingly relatable factor of the piece. Glendinning himself disappears into the wider, more conventionally “fulfilled” life he leads, isolating the fictionalised version of Corrieri further.
It’s the subject of the voicemails, however, which betrays the staginess of the film: Corrieri “spitballs” all of the hidden meaning in old archive footage he’s found of Vincent Gambini practice sessions. It’s unclear as to how self-aware the over-analysis is, or whether Corrieri earnestly wants to signpost the subject matter of the film. However, by stating it so obviously in a one-sided dialogue, it falls into a grey area of forceful symbolism which doesn’t really do those ethereal ideas justice. Far more affecting is the shot of Corrieri sat at a table strewn with magic props, helplessly trying to distract himself on his originally scheduled tour dates. The visual manifestation of cancelled plans hovers in the corner of the screen and effectively conveys the sense of crushing boredom that threatened to consume spring 2020. It’s just self-indulgent enough.
Comparisons to the BBC’s Staged series feel inevitable, and definitely wouldn’t be unearned. There’s a similar blurring of reality and fiction, a frustrated creative stuck in the confines of his home. Nobody can assert that David Tennant and Michael Sheen invented depression. They didn’t even invent Staged. But the misfortune still persists that this film comes out after an incredibly popular two-series show has done very similar work in the mainstream a year prior. Nonetheless, The Disappearing of Vincent Gambini feels cathartic for those performers whose cancelled shows didn’t make headlines, those truly struggling with the burst dreams of crowded theatre spaces. Whether it will translate to a wider audience is uncertain – this feels more a wink to the overthinker-performer crowd, rather than an attempt to communicate beyond it.
The Disappearing of Vincent Gambini was available to watch until 18th April. More info here.