Charlie Caper calls himself a magician, but Artifice Intelligence is less of a magic show and more an excuse for Caper to demonstrate a variety of robots and other machines that he has clearly spent a lot of time building. It is easy to see why, as they are incredible. Artifice Intelligence loses nothing from this focus, as Caper creates a compelling storyline out of his creations.
The magic that Caper does perform often makes use of the robots. It does, at times, almost become a commentary on that stale magical trope of the beautiful assistant, and her relationship with the magician who she assists. The robots steal the show. A particular highlight is the butter robot, which conveys an astonishing breadth of emotion for what appears to be one of the more simple of Caper’s machines.
When Caper attempts more traditional magic tricks they do at times go awry. Cards and bottles might appear out of turn, and, at the performance reviewed, cups of liquid that were being used as props spilled all over the floor and Caper’s clothing. This is written in an ambiguous fashion because Caper performed through these potential mishaps so impeccably that it is difficult to know whether they were genuine mistakes or calculated aspects of his performance, designed to appear to go wrong for effect. If they were honest mistakes it is perhaps even more impressive that Caper managed to play them off so efficiently.
The plot that Caper weaves through Artifice Intelligence is present enough to create dramatic tension, but not so prioritized that it dominates the show. Its foreshadowing and ultimately darkly satisfying conclusion bind the show together. It is charming that after the story has run its course, Caper takes advantage of his stage to deliver a message of hope about the future of technology in society. This does not come across as part of his act, but as genuine social commentary from a man who has evidently spent a large portion of his life fascinated by machines.
Artifice Intelligence blurs the boundary of what can be decidedly defined as magic. It also defies age boundaries, as it is both child friendly and engaging for all age ranges. What Caper has done is use both the magic of magicians and the “magic” of technology to build an unambiguously exceptional show.
Charlie Caper can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 16:05 from August 21, 23-26
More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here