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.