It was magic like poetry. Not the script necessarily, not specifically, but how the storytelling interwove with the tricks. A “plot”, for lack of a better word, is always good in a magic show, but this was beautiful. Mr Hart did magic tricks, of course, but he didn’t make it a magic show in the sense you would expect. It was theatre, not theatricality. He turned tricks into something you can actually, temporarily let yourself believe is truly supernatural, and it was spellbinding.
The tale we were to follow is a mystery, harkening back to olden times, to days of magic past. A juxtaposition of his modern self and something form the depths of the century. Despite his young age, Mr Hart radiated a kind of wisdom when he settled into his storytelling reverie, lulling the audience into willingly suspending their disbelief, letting them hear the drip of phantom rain and the bewilderment of an unexpected, strange visitor at your door.
But it’s the 21st fucking century, folks. We’ve seen magic tricks, we know them well. We squint for hidden wires and when a twenty-something (I’m assuming?) beguiles us with dark tales, a little bit of our minds will stay modern despite, modern and skeptical. And he knows that. So when it’s been going a little too long, maybe, when you can’t stay under the comfortable romantic lull for much longer, he whips the act back, to silly, borderline risque (but covertly enough that he needn’t worry about kids in the audience) jokes, and to unexpectedly funny tricks.
And his tricks are beautiful as well. Falling naturally and elegantly within the narrative, he does confounding magic. At one point, he took a magic standard that I’ve seen countless times before, and changes it, in such a way that it invalidated everything I know about how the original is done in the first place.
But the truth of Ben Hart’s show is not the trickery, but the presentation. It is acts like this that make you remember why magic is so powerful in the first place. If you go to a lot of different magic acts- as one can easily do, as I am, here at the Edinburgh Fringe- you might forget that sense of awe in the attempt to deconstruct, to figure it all out. But it’s so important not to. Of course that desire will still stay, of course as you walk out and shake Mr Hart’s hand (can I just say I love performers who stick around to greet their audience after) and tell him how magnificent he was and wander off, your mind will be twisting and mulling and trying to work it out. But at the same time, and more importantly, you will be brilliantly and blissfully astounded and bewitched.
Ben Hart is performing at Underbelly Cowgate at 4:40pm until August 24th. Seriously, go see him.
+Extra point: It is about 40 minutes since I got out of the show. I literally had to write this all immediately, because the experience was so fantastic. Thank you for the ‘bloody’ tissue by the way, Mr Hart.