Month: August 2015

TWISTED CABARET

☆☆☆☆

Word of advice: the four stars you see here are only for the brave at heart. Twisted Cabaret is a thoroughly terrifying, thoroughly fantastic and hilarious show of cabaret madness.

We are welcomed at the door of Twisted Cabaret by two resplendently dressed men, guaranteeing a delightful show of the most talented variety artists around. But misfortune has struck, they say! Most of our promised entertainers are on a bus stuck at the border! (Which border, we may wonder? Are they stuck at the border between Britain and France? That’s awfully far from Edinburgh). But all is well, for it turns out that our host would like nothing more than to do every single act himself, assisted only by his grumpy ‘producer’ playing the role of the hunchback emcee.

The success of Frank Olivier in his delivery of this cabaret renaissance man is almost frightening. He has a near distressing acuity at every one of the parts he plays. He jumps from sword swallower to fire eater, juggler, unicycle-riding ballerina, and more, showing unbelievable talent in every role he assumes. Sure, the audience does not really imagine that he has transformed into a stiff Hungarian man when he comes onstage to swallow swords, but that does not make the feat any less astonishing. And every one of these personas maintains the high-energy enthusiasm and hilarity to convince people to participate in somewhat (very) embarrassing bits with him.

In drawing upon audience participation, Twisted Cabaret definitely straddles the line of suggestiveness. Although generally not pushing the participants to do anything too heinously humiliating, and allowing for participant choice, the pressure of the crowd somewhat takes away the legitimacy of that consent. Nevertheless, if you are brave enough and want a good story to tell your friends, make sure to take a seat in the front row.

The interactions between Olivier and his participants are painfully hilarious, but the show would not be complete without the deadpan delivery of the producer turned hunchback, Paul Nathan. His few moments to shine prove that he is a talented magician in his own right, but his more background role to Olivier works as an easy and complementary dynamic.

In noting that this show is for the brave heart, I do not refer only to those shy of participating. The truly terrifying part of this show comes at the finale, with Olivier demonstrating some of his most impressive and shocking skills. I will not give anything away here, but suffice to say, many members of the audience were peeking through their fingers.

 

More information on Twisted Cabaret and their performance dates can be found here

Originally published here

EDWARD HILSUM: GENIE

☆☆☆

A family magic show accessible for even the youngest of children, Edward Hilsum: Genie is a charming magical experience.

The show revolves around the simple concept of Hilsum granting the wishes of members of his audience. Upon walking in, people are presented with little cards that ask what it is they truly love and want. These are then collected by Hilsum, and used to inspire the magic he creates. It’s not a complex concept, but due to the young age of most of the audience, this is a positive.

However, one aspect in which the age of the audience might not have been considered is in the staging. It is understandable that many Fringe venues are notoriously difficult spaces to work with, in terms of tech and sight-lines. But family magic shows by nature have a large mix of adults and children. Hilsum should make sure that the majority of his tricks are done at enough of a height that anyone could appreciate what is happening. Leaving the show I overheard a mother ask her son if he liked it, and the boy responded “I think so, but I couldn’t see it.” This is a shame particularly because Hilsum’s skill at sleight of hand is fantastic, and he creates absolutely beautiful illusions.

For some children, the staging isn’t a problem, though, as Hilsum expertly integrates a handful of children into his show. He makes the roles of audience participation relaxed enough that none of the children are scared of being involved. And he definitely has grasped that the best way to win a kid’s heart is to give them something. It isn’t just children that are invited to participate either: wishes are granted for people of all ages.

 

More information on Edward Hilsum and his performance dates can be found here

Originally published here

MAGIKO

☆☆☆☆

A simple set, a modest stage and enough enthusiasm for magic in one man to inspire his audience to audible, astonished gasps. Magiko, with Siegfried Tieber, is an absolute triumph of close-up sleight of hand and mind reading magic.

Performed with tools as simple as a deck of cards, a glass and a book, Magiko invites us to ponder our belief in what is considered ‘supernatural’. Do we believe in luck? Fate? How can someone influence us, without us even realising it? Magiko doesn’t provide answers, instead it tests the answers upon which we had already decided.

The magical illusions of this show would seem to be simple but only in the sense that they are performed with a sparse range of tools. However the effect done and the wonder that is inspired is anything but ordinary. To reactions of utter bafflement, Tieber proves repeatedly that our eyes (and certainly his hands) cannot be trusted. Even after achieving this response, he magnifies it by slowly leading the audience through some of his tricks, telling us exactly how they happen yet, even when ferociously focused, it is impossible to actually see the trick. One moment things are as they appear, the next the unexpected has occurred at the very tips of his fingers.

Despite this obvious technical skill in sleight of hand, the most captivating part of Magiko is the passion of the magician. Tieber has a sense of personal marvel that is absolutely infectious and irresistible. This eager energy is the reason hardly one minute of his show lags. When waxing poetic about the whims of fate and occasionally reminding us of stories that we have not forgotten, Tieber’s enthusiasm ensures that his audience stays at rapt attention.

An important part of Magiko invites the audience to ponder whether, if given the chance, we would choose information or mystery. Regardless of what you may answer in that situation, it is advisable that you do not leave this show a mystery to yourself.

 

More information on Siegfried Tieber and his performance dates can be found here

Originally posted here

DEJA VU – A MIND READING SHOW LIKE YOU WON’T HAVE SEEN BEFORE

☆☆

Deja Vu, according to a very quick Google search I just did, means ‘a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.’ Now, while Francis Girola did inspire this feeling throughout his performance, it was more in relation to his incessant need to repeat the definition more than necessarily fulfilling it in a magical sense.

The repetition of some slightly dull patter, however, did not stop this show from entertaining. It’s always hilarious to see your friends picked on in front of an audience and, in this regard Deja Vu did not disappoint.The show kicked off with Girola easing the audience into a comfortable state by synchronizing our heartbeats. All though he was only somewhat successful at this, which was awkwardly apparent in the small room, he did seem to become more at ease, having gotten this first bit of his show done despite a stammered introduction. But presentation aside, the point of a magic show is to present to your audience something unbelievable, and that he did. Girola could not only seemingly read the minds of his audience, but at one point even enchant them into reading each others thoughts. He knew private information about people in the audience, information that could not possibly be known – and yet, there it was! Of course, the suspension of disbelief here is a bit charitable, as at no point were provably random members of the audience used as participants- all of them were chosen by Girola.

But even for skeptics, the sight of an audience member with a cardboard box on his head, reading a peers mind and drawing a terrible Christmas tree is hilarious. And if you should choose to be enchanted by this introduction to deja vu, you could certainly do worse than this free ticket to an hour of a funny French mentalist.

Original publication here