Hector Mancha transforms the Scottish Storytelling Centre’s stage over the course of This Is Not Magic. The space starts completely empty, giving no hint as to what is to come, but by the end is covered by a carpet of discarded cards and crisps in almost equal measure. This chaotic staging perfectly matches the organized chaos of the show. The premise is that Mancha will teach the audience magic, and he uses this to show just enough to increase the surprise of his reveals.
That being said, perhaps the most impressive aspect of the performance is how well Mancha incorporates various audience interruptions in to his act. Future audiences should be advised that if they sit in Mancha’s first row and take off their shoes they may receive a brief foot massage included in the price of their ticket—although they may also find their discarded shoes temporarily abducted. Less lucky audience members with a blocked noses do not need to worry about loudly blowing their nose during the performance, Mancha will incorporate the sound effect in to the show. These improvised moments bring Mancha’s show to life, making his audience feel fully incorporated in his act.
Those invited to join Mancha onstage are treated with equal friendliness. In the reviewed show Mancha bonds especially well with an Argentinian tourist who ends up helping out for a couple different tricks. In one sequence with her Mancha proves himself immune to the mild germaphobia that affects most of us post covid, eating discarded crisps off the floor of the stage that they have both been stepping on. An even riskier gambit involves relying on an audience member managing to video call a friend to participate—but Mancha gets his videochat in the end, for an especially exciting conclusion to his longest running effect.
Magically, Mancha mostly always fools his audience when he wants to. If a can of soda is occasionally spotted slightly earlier than it is revealed it hardly affects the overall effect of his performance. His most riveting piece is not magic in the usual sense but a shadow puppetry effect set to music, a highly unusual but hugely enjoyable inclusion in the show.
The aspects of the performance that make Mancha stand out—his inclusion of the full audience and his shadow puppetry—may not be traditionally magic effects (although audience management is an important element of all magic shows). These cement Mancha’s status as a unique performer well worth an hour of his audience’s time.