Charlie Caper is perhaps best known for his delightful robots. While these do make a cameo appearance in Sleight of Hand, Caper has reduced their role to focus on his sleight of hand magic skills. He has a charming bumbling style that he can only pull off because his skill is so well honed. Nevertheless, the robots that do feature still manage to steal the show.
The more involved robot sequence that Caper has included features his miniature robot self sharing a newspaper with his real self. The magic is there as Caper destroys and restores the paper, but the real magic is in Caper’s chemistry with his robot self. Watching them move in choreographed unison is such a fun moment, and even sweeter is seeing Caper gently hand props to his robot, so they can collaborate in amazing the audience.
The magic that Caper performs is a combination of more common tricks with some that are more specific to him. Even the magic that the audience may have seen before is done so well that they cannot help feeling astonished. His note changing is a perfect example of this—a trick done so commonly, by so many magicians of varying skill levels, that even casual magic fans may suspect how it is done. However, even those who think they know the secret behind this trick will question that knowledge when they see Caper perform it.
Caper excels at magic, but it is often the non-magical sections of his show that truly set him apart. He ends Sleight of Hand with what is less of a magic trick and more of a light show, while sharing a lovely life philosophy that brings meaning to the pretty flickering lights. Caper is capable of creating magical moments far and beyond the anticipated trickery.
More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here.
Dave Alnwick uses a quote from one of this publication’s past reviews on his flyers this year, that lets prospective audiences know that Alnwick’s shows are notoriously busy and that they will have to arrive early to get a seat. This reviewer initially failed to heed her own warning when trying to review Actual Magic. Luckily it is worth the wait (and the return trip to the Voodoo Rooms).
The stand out feature of Actual Magic is how smoothly the threads of its story are woven into the performance as a whole. Alnwick expresses fear that if he allows himself to put too much of his personal life into his performance it will just come across as emotionally manipulative. Actual Magic drops hints and teasers throughout the show, so by the time he reaches the emotional heart of the story it comes across as genuine. It is more than the one moment, in hindsight the entire show is composed as a memorial—and in a way that is uplifting and inspirational rather than incapacitated by grief.
The magic is incredible as well. Alnwick emphasizes his mentalist tricks in this show without limiting himself to them. One of his sleight of hand tricks excitingly makes use of his flyers rather than normal props like coins or cards. All are perfectly performed to Alnwick’s usual high standards. While Alnwick spends more time telling a story at this show than usual, the magic does not feel forced, but is an essential element of the narrative.
Alnwick mentions that he has been coming to the Fringe for a decade. Those who have seen his comedy magic shows, in past years or even earlier in the day at this year’s Fringe, will see Actual Magic as even more exceptional. Alnwick may come across as insecure in other shows. Past themes of trying to convince everyone to join a cult to worship him, or prove that he is literally the best magician, build an inherently defensive relationship with the audience even by magic show standards. It is an act that clearly works for him, as he is consistently incredibly popular. Actual Magic, on the other hand, feels built on trust in his abilities as a magician and performer to connect with his audience, which is so wholesomely lovely to see. Audiences seeing Alnwick for the first time at Actual Magic may not read this over-analysis in to it. They will just have to settle for a perfectly constructed and flawlessly performed magic show.
More information on Dave Alnwick and his performance dates can be found here.
Everything that Griffin and Jones do in Surprisingly Good Magicians is done in their distinctively silly style. They wouldn’t just read an audience member’s mind, they must use their “mind reading goo”, a sticky fluorescent substance that is stored in a children’s lunchbox. And they have a long section in which they use their mentalist powers to deduce which celebrity a volunteer has picked from the hat, in a style reminiscent of childhood boardgames. The set up for that particular reveal might feel too long in the hands of less experienced performers, but it flies by in Griffin and Jones’s hilarious company. Magic fans might recognize some of the structures underlying their tricks, but Griffin and Jones always find ways to make their magic new and exciting.
Their final reveal of the evening, that you should not believe everything that you are told as all of the mechanisms that they use to produce “magic” are really tricks, initially sounds like the most obvious revelation ever. However, their explanation is genuinely fascinating, as they go through how they buried the lead in each of the tricks that they performed in their show.
The slapstick magic style that Griffin and Jones have perfected does result in them often coming across as surprisingly good on the first watch, as they control the chaos that rapidly engulfs whatever stage they find themselves on. This particular show is especially surprising, as these wacky performers discuss a topic as weighty as the proliferation of unreliable news stories, and even make it fit so perfectly into the silliness of their show.
More information on Griffin and Jones and their performance dates can be found here.