Month: August 2022

PETE HEAT: BLIMEY

☆☆☆☆

Pete Heat’s name is especially appropriate for the day that his Fringe show Blimey was reviewed.  August has been unusually warm, and another mini heat wave this week saw Gilded Balloon staff warning audience members about the heat in Heat’s room and handing out cups of water along the queue.  It was indeed especially hot, even for a Fringe venue, but with the fans kept running and Heat adjusting his volume to compensate the show was able to go on. 

The majority of the run time of the show was not taken up by magic, Heat mentions toying with the idea of turning to stand up comedy full time and it’s evident that he would have no trouble generating material.  This does not come across as a flaw.  The full effect of his comedy and the sprinkling of magic does not fail to entertain.  While most of the creativity of the show is focused on the trappings around the magic—Heat’s delightful stories and inventive comedy props—the magic that he does, which includes both sleight of hand and mentalism, feels freshened by Heat’s performance. 

In a crowded little room with a nearly sold out show it was difficult for Heat to get too much in to his audience, but he ensures that everyone can get involved from their seats.  Despite the full room, with his height and proximity to the seats Heat is able to ensure that his magic is visible to the entire audience.  A few individuals were invited to join Heat on stage to witness his magic up close, and seemed suitably impressed by the experience. 

One point in Heat’s monologuing that may come across as odd to the Edinburgh magic fan is that it is not possible to use magic as a form of self-expression the way you could with other art forms.  Contrary to this assertion, Heat is currently sharing the metaphoric stage of the Fringe with several masters of such emotive magic. It feels incorrect to point out this shortcoming in magic as a genre without acknowledging that there are a significant number who buck the trend, or joining them as an example of the range of possible magical performance.  With his creativity and skill this absolutely feels like a feasible route for Heat if it’s a direction that he is interested in going in. 

Heat’s blend of stand up and magic makes for an exceptional hour regardless of the weather.  The audience is left wanting more, more stories, more magic, more of Heat’s show, a sure sign that Blimey is worth a visit. 

More information on Pete Heat and his performance dates can be found here.

DOM CHAMBERS: FAKE WIZARD

☆☆☆

Magicians will say all kinds of things to get members of their audience to join them on stage.  “It’ll be fun”, “I’ll give you a present”, “Everyone will cheer for you”, “I won’t hurt you”.  Dom Chambers has perhaps the most successful approach yet seen at this year’s Fringe, in his Edinburgh debut Fake Wizard.  Early in the show he lays out a row of beers and invites whoever gets there first to take one to enjoy while watching the rest of his show, queueing a brief race and at least a few people already predisposed to like him after having only spent a few short minutes in his presence.  This sets the tone for the rest of the show—Chambers has own cheeky takes on all the magic he performs. 

Throughout the show Chambers manages to maintain his good relationship with the audience.  He gets willing volunteers to hand him their valuables, and although magic audiences are trained to expect this to result in some temporary distress before the relief of the reveal he does leave them hanging for a while.  Nevertheless the individual in question is willing to trust Chambers repeatedly over the course of the show. 

In the reviewed showing Chambers also dealt with an unusual heckler, a baby, who was remarkably well behaved for the majority of the show but did make their complaints heard at the odd interval.  Chambers included this youngest of his fans in the act, and while the baby may not have noticed this was surely a relief to its adult guardians, as well as to the whole rest of the audience.  It’s easier to relax in to the enjoyment of the show with a magician who seems to have an even temperament. 

In Chambers’s display of Fake Wizard-ry the underlying structure of the tricks may feel familiar, but he dresses each one up to suit his playful personality.  And for his final effect, whether you love it or it makes you a little uncomfortable, you won’t see any other magician do it this Fringe.  Chambers certainly shows the kind of creative thinking that garners a fanbase. 

More information on Dom Chambers and his performance dates can be found here.

CHARLIE CAPER: MAGICAL

☆☆☆☆☆

The simplicity of the show title “Magical” perfectly reflects Charlie Caper’s 2022 Edinburgh Fringe show.  He doesn’t bother with an overarching plotline for the show, the closest we get is his recurring bowtie magic motif.  However, he is a master of the street magic style that he performs.  Everything bumbles along perfectly in keeping with his slightly scatterbrained character, without him ever losing control of the stage. 

The highlight of Caper’s shows is never the magic, as perfectly performed as it always is.  Caper always brings a selection of the robots that he creates to join in his show, to play the assistant role in a few of his tricks.  It’s the marvel of these robots and the delight of his adorable interactions with them that really sets his shows apart.  This year we only get two of them (Caper’s fans may remember that he devoted his show to introducing us to hundreds of them a few years ago) but they are as delightful as ever.  The most memorable one is given a little bowtie to match Caper’s own. 

The magic that Caper performs may be recognizable to those who attend a lot of magic shows, but here we see it performed flawlessly.  His brief coin trick uses an extra large coin, which is helpful for those seated toward the back of his venue, and his card tricks similarly involve a signed card to make it easier for the whole audience to follow along with the action.  A veteran street magician, it’s evident that Caper has honed his act in front of large crowds and easily avoids any of the usual pitfalls of performing sleight of hand to such a big group.  He is especially charming when he invites a young child on stage to participate in a trick, indulging her curiosity about his props without letting it break his flow. 

In Magical, Caper’s effects are always perfect and often beautiful.  Though he is not especially well advertised, his reputation alone gets him a decent crowd early in the Fringe, which can only grow as word of his current show’s quality spreads.  Fringe goers interested in excellent magic would do well to spend an hour with Caper. 

More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here.

RENZ NOVANI: ORACLE: DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE?

☆☆☆☆

The Fringe is a very loud place, from flyerers clamoring to grab attention to performers using their best projection to ensure that their audience can hear them in distracting venues.  It’s part of the appeal, but can get tiring.  Stepping up the stairs to Renz’s calming, lilting voice and softer charisma is a welcome reprieve.  The audience of his show Oracle: Do You Want to See the Future gets to listen to him as he leads them through a series of mentalist effects in a bid to show that he, too, joins the oracles of mythology in ability to see the future. 

Renz dips in to a range of methods to display his mentalist and predictive powers.  Perhaps most fun and impressive is when he requests that audience members generate creative responses to his prompts for him to read from their minds, giving the rest of the audience insight both in to their fellow audience members and Renz himself via the range of prompts available.  You’ll find no ESP cards here, Renz’s methods create a unique experience of his skills at each show. 

The audience members who join Renz’s show as magical participants can expect an especially uplifting experience in an already uplifting show, being rewarded for leaving their seats with compliments and kindness.  Renz is a supportive presence, an audience member who initially has some trouble with Renz’s instructions becomes a temporary co-star in his own right.  Joining Renz on stage is not the only way that the audience participates in the show, which ends up feeling like a culmination of the audience’s collective participation.  

If Renz cheats the question in his ultimate conclusions regarding precognition it is no more than is reasonably expected of magicians, and the result is more inspirational than prospective audiences might anticipate.  While we at World Magic Review don’t claim to possess Renz’s precognitive abilities, we do foresee that Renz’s future audiences will very much enjoy his show. 

More information on Renz Novani and his performance dates can be found here.

ANDREW MCKINLAY: NECESSARY LIES

☆☆☆

Andrew McKinlay’s Necessary Lies has found its home in that most archetypical of free fringe venues: the back of a bar.  It’s also an archetypical fringe magic show.  An overarching theme is noticeable and appreciated to bring some shape to the string of tricks that McKinlay performs.  There are the expected unexpected moments of a magic show, and McKinlay is a strong performer, the audience doesn’t see anything to break the illusions. 

A mentalist, McKinlay uses all the classic props and doesn’t shy away from poking fun at himself for it—“It wouldn’t be a mentalist show without notecards and a sharpie”, after all.  ESP shapes are used prominently as well, in a fun sequence in which McKinlay tests whether or not the audience as a collective has the mind reading abilities to tell where he has placed the shapes. 

The small weekday evening audience of the reviewed show bonded over such moments.  Given the size, there were several times that entire audience was involved in a single trick, and even once where the whole group was all up on stage with McKinlay, effectively performing for ourselves.  This temporary sense of community, both in support of McKinlay as the magician of the evening and in response to knowing that we were collectively choosing to be manipulated by him, is the kind of magic that was most difficult to translate to the pandemic era and is a welcome sign of increasing normalcy. 

Necessary Lies has all the classic mentalist ingredients, with a little bit extra structure to make the audience think without asking them to think too hard.  McKinlay brings his full force of energy to even his small weekday shows, easily holding attention in an uncontrollable bar environment.  The Fringe going audience could do a whole lot worse than spend an hour in his company. 

More information on Andrew McKinlay and his performance dates can be found here.

PROFESSOR NOVAK’S BIZARRE TALES

☆☆☆

Every year, the Fringe features an overwhelmingly gigantic array of shows. While in the wake of the pandemic it has fallen slightly short of the record, from the individual perspective this year feels no different. If you venture off the beaten path to a venue that is new this year, perhaps to a late night show on a Monday evening, you may end up the sole audience member at your chosen event.  If you’re lucky the performer will deal with this as gracefully and professionally at Professor Novak in Professor Novak’s Bizarre Tales.  Staged in a disused section of the Omni Centre (one of the cooler PBH venues this year) at a relatively late time slot, it stands to reason that Professor Novak sees a slump in attendees on an evening early in the work week.  However, this is a shame, as his Bizarre Tales are well thought through and performed with enthusiasm, regardless of the audience size. 

These tales are loosely tied together by the character of Professor Novak, who guides the audience through his mystical curiosities.  It’s a magic show, and magic tricks are employed as evidence of the mysterious properties of these objects, but what sets this show apart is the storytelling, which draws the audience in to the world that Novak creates.  While a couple of prop issues keep it from perfection, the audience barely notices or minds.  Psychic cards, boards that communicate with the spirit realm, and mystical boxes serve to highlight key moments in the tales.  It ends on an interesting, original note that subverts the expectations of even frequent attendees of magic shows, and especially admirably, comes to a satisfying conclusion without the cliched reveal that the magician knew everything that happened before it did.

Even while maintaining a slightly zany character, Novak does not come across as threatening to his audience, and even manages to build a good rapport through the eccentricities of his persona.  He uses the roles of participants to uplift the audience in addition to the traditional eyes of the public up close to the trick.  This is a different challenge with just one audience member, but not necessarily an easier one, and Novak rises to it with apparent ease. 

Professor Novak’s Bizarre Tales has evidentially been underrated as at the evening of the reviewed performance.  It’s one of the better scripted magic shows, performed very enthusiastically regardless of audience size, and definitely deserves a larger audience.  While perhaps not one for those who value a magic show based on concentration of tricks, it’s great for those who want to listen to spooky stories, with the odd magical twist.  

More information on Professor Novak and his performance dates can be found here.