THE ILLUSIONISTS

☆☆☆☆

The Illusionists claim to be the “largest touring show in magic history anywhere,” but it is not just in size that they dominate the stage magic world. This show features a broad breadth of magic sub-fields, ensuring that no matter what style sparks your interest, there’s something spectacular for you at this performance.

The magical emcee of the Illusionists is Jeff Hobson, whose showmanship is the greatest boon to the performance as a whole. This comedy magician has a grandiose, flamboyant persona and wickedly slick wit, with a clever crack at the ready no matter what his volunteers or the audience do. Not only are the jokes fast but his hands as well, and in one memorable case, his tongue.

Attending a magic show, an audience expects to see some things they can’t explain. But having the thoughts plucked right out of their minds has it’s own special shock value. This illusion is delivered by Colin Cloud. Billed as ‘the Deductionist,’ the comparisons to Sherlock Holmes are blatant. Funnier than Benedict Cumberbatch and more dapper than Jeremy Brett, Cloud’s astute predictions are both impressive and terrifying.

Andrew Basso is  ‘The Escapologist’, and recreates one of Houdini’s greatest feats, the Water Torture Cell. Although, if the reaction of the ladies in the audience is any indication, he’s a bit more fit than his inspiration. It’s a bonus for them that the cell walls are clear, so we can see exactly how Basso expertly breaks out of his bonds, even under the intense pressure of holding his breath for several minutes.

Anti- Conjurer Dan Sperry strikes an attitude contrast to his peers, with no geniality to offer Sperry instead has a sullen menace that pairs appropriately with his wince-worthy tricks. No matter how desperate you are to see what’s going down, it takes a brave soul to peek through their fingers at this grotesque magic.

Rounding out the cast are ‘The Inventor’ Kevin James, with dramatic displays of craftily constructed magic, ‘The Manipulator’ Halim An with a beautifully choreographed sleight of hand, and ‘The Daredevil’ Jonathan Goodwin with heart-stoppingly stressful stunts that are also much to the credit of his assistants.

It is perhaps not a straight-forward compliment to say that the Illusionists are like magical hors d’oeuvres. Delivering short performances in rapid- fire, you never exactly feel like you’ve gotten the meat of the magic show, or like you’ve gotten to see each individual magician at their best. Just when you get attached to one flavor of magic, you’re two conjurers later. But there is an undeniable benefit to this recipe, that even if one magician isn’t to your taste, you get at least three more that are. Food metaphors aside, because they’re getting labored, The Illusionists is the perfect magic show to make you realize that you do actually like magic shows.

March 29, Heymann Performing Arts Center, Lafayette LA.

More information about the Illusionists and further dates of their tour can be found here.

 

BIBS ‘N’ BOBS RELOADED

☆☆☆☆

Bibs ‘n’ Bobs Reloaded is a magic show exactly as it sounds, being constructed of simple objects from an ordinary Morrisons bag. As well as, of course, being a pun on magician Elliot Bibby’s surname. This show is a prime example that something created with the most humble of objects can become something fantastic.

As it is an unavoidable aspect of the Fringe, venue conditions are generally not fair play to comment on in a review. But when an act surpasses the limitations of their stage spectacularly, it is worth noting upon. Bibby transcends the obstacles his particularly difficult venue with impressive agility. It isn’t just his understanding of the necessity to elevate his tricks enough for everyone to see- although that is something a lot of Fringe magicians, including ones with ticketed shows, could learn from. But more specifically to his art, Bibby wove together his act so well that it grabs your attention away from any discomforts and distractions.

Bibby’s skill is in his presentation as well as attention to detail. Composed and dapper, Bibby charms without any of that stereotypical magician smarminess. His onstage persona is just genuine enough to foster a connection with the audience, but aloof enough to maintain a sense of mystery. He expertly handles heckling, both of the negative and of the positive but obnoxiously intrusive varieties. He has unfaltering intuition of when to humor the interjections and when to ignore them, having literally no missteps in this regard despite it being prevalent throughout his show.

In terms of actual illusions, Bibby intertwines the traditional and the imaginatively unique to create masterful magic. Using everything from cards and fire to the titular bibs and bobs in his bag, Bibby nonetheless maintains the needed cohesiveness to make his show polished and professional. Slick but funny from beginning to end, Elliot Bibby unquestionably proves his magical prowess and potential in Bibs ‘n’ Bobs Reloaded.

Originally published here.

AAABEDUATION: A MAGIC SHOW

☆☆

“We are the first show… in the Edinburgh Fringe Guide” magicians Malin Nilsson and Charlie Caper crow happily, claiming this as the reason for their strangely named show. This seems odd to be the sole reason to name a show, but as no other explanation is given, we just have to go with it. This sets the trend for this show which might have been inspired at the start, but doesn’t exactly follow through into a satisfying result.

Nilsson and Caper both hail from Switzerland and have been doing magic together for several years, so it is unfortunate that the chemistry together is the weakest aspect of the show. Caper is the comedy magician of the pair and Nilsson the choreographed illusionist. Instead of the two parts of the performance complementing each other, the combination is jarring in its delivery. However, they are both reasonably strong separately, so not a hopeless dealbreaker.

For most of her part of the show, Nilsson does magic tricks silently to music. They are very elegantly performed and she has an excellent sense of stylistic development, but they are a bit hackneyed. Even if someone only has seen a couple other magic shows, they have probably seen these illusions before. That’s no problem if presented with original flair and personality, but as she does them they just come across stale and the applause is accordingly muted.

Caper delivers with such endearing cheesiness that even things that shouldn’t be funny are because of his perfect presentation. An ongoing joke with a bow tie never fails to gain laughter and his great persona means that – although he also uses traditional magic in parts – it comes across as more original and compelling, if not as well rehearsed.

Caper and Nilsson struggle with integrating the two distinctive parts of their performance, but if they can solve this problem, Aaabeduation will succeed in becoming a bewitching show.

Originally published here

PETE FIRMAN: SUPER DUPER

☆☆☆☆☆

‘It’s fucking magic.’ Pete Firman says this as a joke, but those three words are his show in a nutshell. Blunt, irreverent, and frustratingly riveting, Peter Firman: Super Duper is a manifestation of ‘how the hell did he do that’ in sixty minutes. Often, to enjoy a magic show, an audience needs to apply a suspension of disbelief, not because the magic is poor, but because you are rational. But in Super Duper, you don’t need to try with your belief, because Firman has deftly claimed it for himself within mere minutes of walking (or rather, appearing) onstage.

Firman is the master of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ magic, a slick professional whose show rattles with hilarity and wonder. There are absolutely no seconds of dead air in this performance; he fills every moment with his pithy wit. Caught up in these bursts of intense enthusiasm and crackling humour, the audience is drawn wholly into his remarkable illusions. His tricks were magic classics, but done with such skill and ease that even someone looking in all the right places wouldn’t see how they were being fooled. Not that anyone could possibly hope to look in those right places.

Firman interacts easily with his spectators, both in the case of his participants and of heckling members of his audience who might dare to get up in the middle of the show. (Oh how the tables turn.) His humour is harsh enough to be hilarious but not too mean to cross a line, and means that even if someone has stood up in front of you to sneak off the the bathroom, Firman still keeps full command of your attention.

Pete Firman: Super Duper is a brilliant magical performance that will guarantee you an amazing night of bewildering illusions and breathless laughter.

Originally published here.

Peter Antoniou: Happy Medium

☆☆☆

The show is called Happy Medium, and Peter Antoniou introduces himself early into it as a ‘Comedium’, but these excellent puns are far from the best part of this show.

The distinctive comedic style Antoniou weaves through his show can be explained with one example – “This man has paperclipped a sticker to himself.” Of all the astounding mind reading and unknowable-fact-knowing, this line is the thing that stuck out the most. Out of context, this humour in this is bewildering. But it was improvised and delivered in such gently mocking deadpan that it became hilarious, an example that is indicative of Antoniou’s persona. It works perfectly in the atmosphere of he has created in Happy Medium.

Although set up as a stage show, this magical experience perfectly conveys the ambiance of a psychic reading. The audience can all see each other, encouraging people to banter back forth as Antoniou reads the deep secrets of their minds. This also means that everyone can see the looks of wonder on their neighbours’ faces when they have a secret revealed. It also tends to favour larger groups of friends monopolising the interactivity of the show, but Antoniou avoids this problem for the most part by making sure to involve almost everyone in the audience.

The performance perhaps drags at times, seeming strained when some of Antoniou’s psychic skills struggle to accurately hit. If this had happened only slightly less, it would have lent legitimacy to his role. But it extends too much, making some moments just feel like desperate guessing. Some of the audience hassles him about this, but for the most part Antoniou manages to quietly charm each and every spectator. Even when he takes a moment to get to the dramatic reveals, we are willing to wait for it, because of his endearingly awkward humour.

Peter Antoniou: Happy Medium is a charmingly understated show, combining hilarity with clairvoyance into an engaging performance.

Originally published here

Tricnic

☆☆

Tricnic is a comedy magic show featuring twin magicians Kane and Abel who reject your preconceived notions of the props and common items magic is usually done with and instead perform with food. Tricnic is exactly what it sounds like – a picnic of tricks.

In terms of the tricks, the magicians do not do anything uniquely original or surprising, but that is forgivable in a magic show when the presentation is skillful and entertaining. However, in this regard they also struggle. Surprisingly, considering that they are twin brothers, Kane and Abel have a more awkward and stilted lack of chemistry than random strangers shoved on a stage together would. This uncomfortable dynamic is distracting from the show and means that even when the tricks pay off, it is hard to take any pleasure from them. Luckily, this magic show is situated next to a bar but that still wasn’t enough for some of the audience at the performance I attended, as some people slunk or even blatantly strolled out mid show.

To their favour, Kane and Abel are competent magicians, and their chosen shtick of a trick picnic is fun. Unfortunately, the bits that involve audience participation- which is most of them- the magical duo prove that they are just as weak at interacting onstage with people who aren’t related to them. In cases where poor direction leads audiences to fumble with what they are meant to do, they are mocked by the magicians. This is to be expected, but the lack of any true, connecting humor in their mockery makes it sound harsh and uncomfortable to the audience. It also means that the different tricks are drawn out to the point of feeling pained as Kane and Abel attempt to get the necessary participation accomplished. Even when they get there in the end, any true momentum and impact has been irrevocably lost.

Tricnic is a free show, and the idea of it isn’t bad at all. With more rehearsal with each other, and by adopting a more natural banter as their onstage patter, the brothers could probably get past their wooden interactions.and deliver an entertaining performance.

Originally published here

CHRIS COOK: TRUTH OR DARE

☆☆☆☆☆

Chris Cook is an unexpected gem of Edinburgh Fringe magicians, and an absolute master of his stage. His show this year, Truth or Dare, is a testament to the captivating nature of skillful and surprising magic.

In accordance with its name, Truth or Dare is a game with the audience. In such a game, of course, the magician will always be winning. But Cook is a consummate professional and charmer of his spectators. Even if he was always going to fool us, we’re ecstatic for it to happen. The show is completely interactive, involving someone in every trick that is done. You would think this runs the risk of relying on a terrible participant, but Cook has no such troubles. His interactions with the crowd is his greatest strength amidst a show of only strengths. Striding around the stage confidently and very rapidly, Cook sweeps you up in his enthusiasm and devilish wit, but at the same time remains respectful of how awkward people can feel when brought on stage. He takes particular care to attend to that concern and makes sure that everyone is unembarrassed and comfortable at all times no matter what trick they are participating in.

Keeping pace with Cook’s rapid fire wit is his magic. He charges from one astonishing trick to the next, never giving a moment for the delighted bafflement to fade away before he’s brought it back again. Whether he’s reading someone’s mind or making magic happen in their very hands, Cook astounds both the immediate participant and everyone watching. The finale of Truth or Dare is a particular triumph. Although definitively different than the rest of the tricks that precede it, Cook still somehow weaves the theory into the show so that it stands out in a way that compliments instead of distracts.

Truth or Dare takes the sheer quality, polished nature, and powerful amazement of any magic show and puts it in a free show. If you want to see excellent magic performed, this show is the one to catch before the Fringe is over.

Originally published here