Let’s start with an extract from some information given with the deck: “The Kelly Gang deck portrays the most notorious outlaws from Australia’s wild colonial past…” Interested yet? There’s more…
It’s a limited edition deck that screams “quality, history and stories”.
Working from the outside, in:
> Exterior of case:
Protected by cellophane wrap. Sophisticated looking case in midnight blue/grey with gold foil accents. Front shows illustration of Ned Kelly. Rear is an eye-catching back design with hand-gun motif overlaid with ribbon presenting the words “Such is life” - attributed to the subject of the deck, Ned Kelly, allegedly uttered by him on his way to the hangman’s noose. Reminds me of
a certain "It's your life"...Maybe "Such is life" could be a great tag or finishing line in a themed presentation :)
> Interior of case:
Interior of case printed with repeat pattern of the gun motif, and titled “The Kelly Gang” on the inside of the flap. The flap has a sticker seal displaying the guns.
> Playing card stock:
310 gsm premium German linen stock. Smooth feel for initial shuffle and fan work straight out of the box (slight grippy feel, too, so not sliding everywhere). Will need some breaking-in for me to faro them. False deals a-ok for me.
> Playing card back design:
The back design is the same as seen on the rear of the case, except accent lines printed in tan (the gold foil is case only). Feature of note: full bleed of the dark blue/grey to the edge, so no white border…which may help to disguise the visual appearance of your false deals; also your passes. Background design uses a series of short, thin white lines like a light-burst all over the card. Wouldn’t take much to tinker with this (or other various lines and dots in the back design) to give yourself a neat set of readers.
> Playing card face design:
Not black cards, instead a nice continuation of the dark blue/grey colour. Red cards to complement. To my eye, a slightly art-deco feel to the indices design, with double line accents. Overall I’d call it slimline styling, with a condensed feel to the size of the pips, without compromising visuality. Artwork is smart and continues to exude “quality, history, stories”.
> Special cards:
>> 2 Jokers, but non-identical: Ned Kelly in his famous steel helmet (coloured in dark blue/grey); and Ellen Kelly, his mother (coloured in red) (both are one-way face design).
>> Bonus Joker: B&W photographic image of the real Ned Kelly (one-way face design).
>> The Aces: artwork and name plates of The Kelly Gang:
Ned Kelly, Dan Kelly, Joe Byrne, and Steve Hart (yep, the latter portrayed on the Ace of Hearts). Two-way face designs. Variously displaying guns, rifles, whips and, er, a feather quill (pen is mightier…?). Youthful looks? These guys were barely into their 20s! Angry young men.
>> History card: provides a snapshot of The Kelly Gang history of how “Ned Kelly and his gang waged war on British colonial civilization”. Puts the “Such is life” quotation in context. Great summary and a nice addition to give context and meaning to the deck.
>> Double-backer is included.
> Initial thoughts on how to use the deck:
Easily a nice item for the coffee table, mantelpiece, bookshelf etc.
Lots of tricks come to mind that could make a feature of the Kelly Gang deck. An Ace Assembly (Invisible Palm Aces?) where the characters are moving around to evade or escape the law (similar play with Sheep/Wolves, Bank Robbers type effects where the cards go into the deck in separate places but secretly come together); Collectors; Rising and Descending Card/s ("Ned peeking out from his hiding place"); Card Vanish From Box (box is the building where Kelly made his last stand before he surrenders?); Story Deck; Pothole Card Trick…Moving Hole Card Trick…maybe they’re bullet holes…maybe the card shows Ned’s helmet? There’s a Double-Backer – good for an Ambitious Card routine; Colour Changes of the Aces (Kelly Gang members) with the effect that they vanish/appear (I’m thinking Bill Goodwin’s The Queens, or maybe Jack Carpenter’s No Table Aces…).
And you can extend from the deck into other props to flesh-out a more complete set… Do any card tricks where you use coins or poker chips as markers? Substitute non-live bullet cases for coins? Chink-a-chink? A mini Ned Kelly helmet as a chop cup? Etc.
I grabbed a couple of these decks and I’m pleased with the purchase. The storytelling/engaging presentation potential of the deck appeals to me. I'm British and I live in Melbourne, Australia, so potentially there would be some connection/history/active interest in a local audience, were I to perform with this deck (which I have not as yet done). And I was married near Kelly country in outback Victoria in Australia, too. I feel I have lots of angles I could play with for a script/story, that would mean something to me and would mean I am expressing something genuine about myself. Why WOULDN’T I have this deck?
For non-Australian residents, there are cultural-historical references that can be played for the modern audience. Brits are an obvious tie-in, and the anti-British colonialism theme might play in the USA? Ned’s heritage was County Antrim in Ireland (his mother...a whole other story in itself). Does any of that matter to you? I don’t know. Wherever you are, The Kelly Gang deck has lots of angles and themes to build on to explain why you’d have “this kind of deck”. Grab a couple of decks, and give yourself something a bit different to play with, something that is oozing with real history and culture and has the potential for many nice marriages between story and effect.