Oliver Meech is no stranger to the Edinburgh Fringe, having brought his show When Magic and Science Collide in previous years. However, this Fringe, Meech aspires to do something a little different than a traditional magic show, and combines his skills for illusion with – as the title says – improv. While this sounds very impressive in theory, in practice the link is a bit tenuous. Although Meech does indeed incorporate words from the audience into his show, they are very obviously nonsensical connections and the show would have probably been identical no matter what they were. This is fine on it’s own terms, but if you were expecting the advertised improvisation, you might be disappointed.
Meech’s presentation has a huge variance in its different aspects. In terms of personability and energy, he excels. He has a very amiable, engaging stage presence. This put any volunteers he brings onto his stage at ease. In the performance I attended at least, he tries to focus on children for volunteers, although this may have been simply because the front row happened to be full of them that particular day. This stage presence in personality falls short in visual presentation, unfortunately. Meech’s decision to call his show ‘improvised’ may attempt to cover the sparseness of the set, as if he and we were there by simple accident, making a show together on a whim and out of cardboard boxes. This could have worked, except there is no consistency in it – while one side of the stage has the scribbled-on cardboard boxes, the other side has his personalised (twitter handle plugging) suitcase and a nice room divider. The poor presentation also carries over to his own appearance- dressing casually for a performance is one thing, having large and obvious sweat stains on your clothing is another.
In skill at least, Meech proves himself to be a more than competent magician, performing tricks that have the audience wondering ‘how could he have done that?’ But they do not wonder quite as much as he probably would like, because explanations and lead-ups to the tricks come across as rushed and do not allow for proper consideration of what is happening. While the bouncy, energetic persona of Meech works in terms of charming his audience, it also comes with a tendency to hasten through bits of his show and make them less impressive than they could be.
Oliver Meech’s Improvised Magic show sounds promising in theory, and with more polish and direction, it has excellent potential.