The first thing you will notice when More Magic and Mischief starts is that Chris Dugdale just radiates absurd, over-dramatic cheesiness. This is a fine line of a choice, wander too far and you risk making the audience want to punch the smarmy grin right off your face. But somehow, Mr Dugdale has actually cultivated it to the point of being hopelessly charming. It’s the kind of showmanship that will make you think ‘you utter goof’ while grinning and clapping loudly.
And clap loudly the audience does. Mr Dugdale interacts well with his crowd, focusing (and this is a warning if you’re planning on going to his show) on those in the front row. He weaves participation into many of his bits, interacting playfully but never disrespectfully. Rather he- and there’s this word again- charms his participants through tricks with predictions, reappearing cards, words in books, and an unexpected use of citrus.
The general rule of magic is that the performer will capture your attention exactly where they don’t want you to look, but even I, knowing where to look, took going to the show four times to catch even a couple of his tricks. As a rule I don’t go onstage the first time I see a performer, and then of course, I can’t go on if I attend again during the rest of the show run because I know what’s going to happen. However, I did peer pressure a friend into going up. She, a person who prides herself on being unreadable, was astonished at how quickly he could guess the word she was thinking of.
This is not to say that he’s perfect. I work with a lot of actors, so I am very observant of flubbed lines. And there are a couple of places in his show that he has distinct trouble with- watch for stumbles around mentions of Tesco’s finest wine and President Obama. But in his defense, the ability to weave a mostly set script around improv to audience participation is impressive, and he carries it off at most times. I wouldn’t notice these stumbles if I hadn’t seen them repeated at the six times I’ve seen his Fringe show so far- yes, I’ve gone six times, so who’s really winning?
Mr. Dugdale mentions Las Vegas in his show, and nothing could be more spot on. He emanates slick charm and skill indicative of a Las Vegas performer, and keeps his audience laughing and bewildered- without ever condescending to them. From start to finish his Edinburgh Fringe show is a captivating experience that will delight any and everyone.
Chris Dugdale: More Magic and Mischief is going on at Assembly George Square Studios during the 2014 Edinburgh Fringe, at 18:50 on August 12-17, 19-25.