At ‘The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum’, the show kicked off outside the beautiful Lady Stair’s House with a few card tricks and a history lecture. This was to become a running theme throughout the evening. Three magicians were placed in writer-specific rooms in the museum, having each prepared a short presentation on their writer, and, of course, a magic show based on themes taken from that writer’s life or body of work. The audience was split in half on arrival, with attendees being handed either a red or black playing card, to better squeeze everyone into the relatively small rooms.
Renz Novani, the “Poet of the Impossible”, presided over the Robert Burns room. In between reading some Burns poetry and some of his own Burns poetry, Novani performed both mentalist and card magic tricks. His elegantly playful magic in combination with his enchanting spoken word performance made for a wonderful show. Novani’s evident passion for poetry and the magic of language made him a particularly suitable magician both for this event and more specifically for the Burns room.
The Sir Walter Scott room was filled by Ewan Callison’s flamboyant personality. While his larger-than-life persona may perhaps be better matched with a larger venue, he put together a combination of historical storytelling and primarily mentalist magic that flowed well with the intentionally small audience. That effectively assembled show proved to be entertaining as both a magic show and a comedic act.
The magician who welcomed the audience with the previously mentioned outdoor performance, Chris Cook, performed in the Robert Louis Stevenson room. Cook’s enthusiasm for the nautical themes- taken from Treasure Island- gave his series of sleight of hand tricks a sense of direction and cohesiveness, while his enthusiasm for performing magic imbued his performance with joy. Cook’s magic stood out as exceptionally astonishing, and left several members of the audience still expressing their amazement as they made their way out of the museum.
The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was an enjoyable evening of magic and history. It may not be for everyone, as some might prefer their magic without a literary lecture, but this reviewer loves a good history lesson. The venue and quasi-educational approach broadened the appeal of this event beyond the usual magic fans. This show, and presumably the other Secret Room events, showcased a select few of Edinburgh’s many tourist attractions in a decidedly different way than your standard daytime excursion. The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was a worthwhile visit both for magic enthusiasts and for those looking for a whimsical tour through one of Edinburgh’s most fascinating museums.
Runs Mon 3 July – Thur 6 July 2017 as part of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival; Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA