Anyone who might have seen images of a man in a dragon onesie with a dog strapped to his chest and expected Piff the Magic Dragon’s Lucky Dragon Tour to be a classic family friendly magic show would be disappointed. The Lucky Dragon Tour is more of a parody of classic magic. There are relatively few actual magic tricks by comedy magic standards, as Piff’s comedy shares the spotlight with his magic, but the tricks that are there are made to count.
The Lucky Dragon Tour has elements of a stereotype of a magic show—a glamorous assistant and a performing animal—but their roles in the show satirize those outdated conventions. The glamorous assistant does wear a showgirl outfit, dance between tricks, and help Piff set tricks up. However, the blatant dissonance of her act with the overall sensibility of the show mocks the sincerity of historical use of magicians’ assistants.
The animal performer at the Edinburgh Fringe this year is one of the original Mr Piffles’ many understudies, an employee of Edinburgh’s chihuahua café named Cleo, so that Mr Piffles would not have to undertake the traumatic transatlantic flight from Las Vegas. This alone underscores a key difference between the Mr Piffles’ role and that of a more traditional trained magical animal. Mr Piffles is treated very much as a treasured pet. He shows no signs of having been trained to perform, beyond a tendency to tranquility despite the energy of the show, and is cradled in loving arms for the majority of his time on stage. He is nevertheless not just a prop but very much the star of the show.
If Piff’s interactions with the audience come across as unkind, it is in such an over the top way that it seems to make fun of stereotypes of magicians or comedians whose attempts at interactive humor stray a little too frequently into insults. He is watchful of his audience and chooses individuals who respond well to his teasing humor. His magic is well performed and adapted to fit the show, making good use of a camera to magnify the smaller elements of the tricks for the large venue.
The Lucky Dragon Tour’s satirical take on magic is well worth the hour. While, to be fair, the vast majority of modern magicians do not embody the stereotypes that Piff mocks, this old school is still a recent memory, and the last vestiges of that old fashioned style do still pop up from time to time. Even for those unfamiliar with the type, Piff’s skill and humor stand alone as strong entertainment. Arrive early for a chance at coming across Cleo hanging out in the audience!