Author: WMR

MAGIC GARETH’S MAGIC EYE

☆☆☆☆

The Edinburgh-renowned Magic Gareth managed all but a full house on a sunny Edinburgh Sunday morning—the first magical feat of the reviewed performance of Magic Gareth’s Magic Eye. The one potential critique of the show is both immediately obvious at the start of the show while not being at all his fault, that due to the shape of the stage and audience layout individuals who chose to sit at the far edges are unable to see Gareth on stage. There is a brief moment of shuffling around when he first comes on, and future audiences are advised to arrive early and get central seats. That being said, the rest of the show—the bits that Gareth has control over—are difficult to fault. Even the smallest members of his audience are happily engaged for the full hour.

Gareth’s magic and child-friendly stunts consistently amaze, and get the whole audience involved. His fun take on Russian roulette culminates in a surprise that, from personal experience, is a refreshing treat for a hot summer day. And when he has an extra special prop to show off he makes sure to run around the whole audience so that everyone gets a chance to touch it. This prop’s use results in one of the visual highlights of the show, featuring Gareth using a hilarious makeshift blindfold to show off his skills without using sight. Cameras came out up and down the audience as everyone wanted their memento.

Given his reputation as a children’s performer it would be expected that Gareth is good with the children in his audience, and he is indeed great with them. He involves the little ones at every possible opportunity, making them feel important without giving them anything too taxing or stressful to do. His final words onstage are especially sweet for the kids, making sure that every single person in his audience leaves the show feeling special.

Magic Gareth is so well known as a children’s performer that even us Edinburghers without children of our own have often heard of him, and in Magic Gareth’s Magic Eye he more than lives up to his reputation. Children’s entertainment doesn’t get much better than this.

More information on Magic Gareth can be found here.

CAMERON GIBSON: MYSTERIES; AN HOUR OF IMPOSSIBILITIES

☆☆☆☆

If previous years’ trends are anything to go by, Fringe goers love watching a beautiful and stylish Scottish mentalist read people’s minds.  For all in search of this, Cameron Gibson is the mentalist to go to this year.  There is more to recommend him than just physical beauty—he is also a funny and compelling performer.  In his wordily titled Mysteries; An Hour of Impossibilities Gibson displays a well structured mentalist show. 

Gibson does not limit himself to mentalism, opting for a classic cup and ball to get the show going, to great success.  A few tipsy audience members who had wandered in apparently entirely aware of what they were getting themselves in for could be heard commenting that Mysteries; An Hour of Impossibilities was already the best show they had seen this year as Gibson set his cup and ball to the side.  The one slight hiccup came in his transition to the more mentalism-themed part of the show, when a supposedly suggestible participant was slightly less suggestible than expected, but Gibson did not miss a beat, and her initial hesitation only made the second step of Gibson’s work with her that much more impressive. 

However the main event is Gibson’s mind reading using personality questionnaires that he had asked the audience to fill in immediately on entering the venue.  The quasi-psychological twist of using personality tests rather than just random bits of information adds interest.  Gibson outlines the personality types of his participants based on their responses, in what he freely admits are horoscope-level generalizations, before accurately mind reading more specific details.  The range of information gleaned and individuals read made for an exciting final segment. 

With a convenient  pre-dinner time slot at the ever popular Voodoo Rooms Gibson is this year’s must-see for the Fringe’s mentalism fans.  An hour in his affable company will only leave audiences wanting more. 

More information on Cameron Gibson can be found here.

IMPOSSIBLE! WITH BRENDON PEEL

☆☆☆

If magic is known for anything other than the tricks, it’s the bad jokes that make audiences groan until they reluctantly laugh. Brendon Peel, in Impossible! With Brendon Peel got the memo loud and clear, with an impressive stream of jokes that are absolutely terrible in the absolute best way. Impossible! Is an intentionally hodgepodge show, as Peel explains at the start that his aim is to give the audience a taste of each of the genres of magic, from sleight of hand to mind reading. The audience gets a glimpse of an apparently sweet and supportive friendship with fellow magician Tomas McCabe, who Peel points out at the back of his audience as the one to see for those who especially enjoy his mentalism section. But for an overview of magic, Peel is the one to see.

A highlight of the tricks on offer is Peel’s card finding trick. At the reviewed show the participant brought up to help with this was a young boy who looked thrilled to have been invited to share the spotlight. Peel is great with the kids in his audience, going out of his way to involve them all in his act—which is not explicitly geared toward children but is family friendly. Peel’s card finding trick was elevated by its callback to the first mind reading trick of the show, adding an unexpected extra reveal.

This first trick incidentally was a longer-form reveal that many magicians use as a grand finale. Its placement at the start of the show is an early indication of Peel’s skill and justified confidence in his act. Like the acrobats who jump straight in to a three-high tower in their opening number, he lets the audience know that they don’t need to wait until the end to be impressed, the entire show is on that higher level.

Impossible! With Brendon Peel is a perfect introduction to magic for all ages, and his excellent showmanship makes it fun for seasoned magic fans as well. His limited Fringe run is already proving popular, with a busy audience for his first weekend. He can only get more popular as word of his abilities spreads.

More information on Brendon Peel can be found here.

LUIS CARREON: LA BESTIA

☆☆☆☆

The Chicago Magic Lounge has a dual identity, and if one comes early to a show, they have the privilege in witnessing both sides. Magicians tend bar while hobbyists and hangers-on chat loudly about their own illusions, their own connections with “big names” in the magic world. Little jokes are made for the purpose of dropping names, and all at a volume intended to let everyone hear but not everyone understand. This bar is not a land for the casual attendee, this is where the diehards reign. That being said, there is a universal appeal here as well- in a venue that one goes through a fake laundromat entrance to access, this is only another sign that you have been accepted into a deliciously secret space, with tantalizing rumors abound.

But let yourself be ushered into the performance space, and your experience develops in a whole different way. Because while the Lounge itself may have two faces, Artist in Residence Luis Carreon is a man utterly secure in his own identity, and eager to invite his audience into experiencing it. This is the identity the Lounge thrives in sharing, the showmanship talent they have done so well cultivating.

Carreon’s pet schtick in his show La Bestia is, to be blunt, his ethnicity. Tricks and jokes alike are formed primarily around his Mexican background. This tactic lends a sense of cohesion to a show where otherwise the stream of tricks would seem picked at random, a collection of standard coin, card and similar familiar effects. However, a well-constructed persona can color a show, but cannot serve as the sole narrative, which Carreon seems to attempt. Carreon delights and charms the audience with ease through his authenticity. A smidge more confidence would seem to be all he needs to free him from overplaying his history and allow him to integrate it into a more developed narrative to build his show around.

Ultimately, Carreon is a talented performer who lacks only a little polish and experience. His comedic timing is clever and refreshing – when he lets it be. Carreon’s audience is captivated by every joke he lets breathe. He need only to stop overfilling his performance with any joke, trick, and pop culture reference he can think of, to stop throwing material at the wall hoping it will stick. The material that the audience gets time and space to absorb does stick, and spectacularly so.

Luis Carreon is a charming performer, and faultlessly adept at sleight of hand. While La Bestia may be at moments bloated with material, one gets the sense that this is because Carreon is so in love with his art that he cannot imagine not sharing his favourite parts of it with his crowd. This openness and delight with communicating the magic of magic wins his audience to him, and deservedly so. La Bestia is an experience well worth attending, and one that will likely only get better each time.  

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

MAGIC ROMAN’S SUMMER HOLIDAY

☆☆☆

Magic Roman immediately grabs the attention of the children in his audience—and many of the adults—with his lovely bubbly coffee mug at the very start of Magic Roman’s Summer Holiday. The pretty bubbles are equally lovely to see and engaging for the children, several of whom reach out to bat them out of the air. Roman here establishes the pantomime-esque atmosphere, welcoming kids’ verbal contributions to the show. It all makes for an excellent lunchtime destination for young families.

As an adult, magically Roman is a bit of a mixed bag. He does not shy away from tricks and props that will only appeal to children, a point in his favor given his target audience, but perhaps worth noting for their attending parents. And this does not mean that there is nothing to keep the adults engaged, he earns their applause too—especially with his mind reading style trick that had a fun twist for all the age groups. Roman rounds out his entertainment value with a few original songs themed on his holiday, great transition pieces that feel a step up from the usual practice in magic shows of playing a recording of music in such transitory periods instead. He has a multitude of talents.

Kids and adults are all invited onstage, and Roman is great with both. The kids in particular are encouraged in their adorable interactions with him at all times. His cutest exchange comes from an effect with a paper bag. The kids’ increasing frustration at Roman’s misinterpretation of their requests was rewarded, eventually, with an exciting reveal that stunned them in to silence. Entertainment aside, he does a great job of encouraging the kids to get rid of excess energy through dancing and screaming, surely a welcome addition to the show in their parents’ eyes.

Magic Roman’s Summer Holiday is excellent children’s entertainment. The show is primarily geared toward their little ones but the adults will undoubtedly find joy in it as well. As at the reviewed show it appears to be under-appreciated, but for the group it’s geared toward it’s well worth the visit.

More information on Magic Roman and his performance dates can be found here.

TOM BRACE: EMBRACE THE IMPOSSIBLE

☆☆☆☆

Tom Brace: Embrace the Impossible is a truly all-ages show. There’s the brightly colored props and exciting flashy effects to keep the kids entertained, and a pleasant nostalgia-fest for us adults—for those of us around Brace’s age, harkening back to a time when we were children ourselves, before we were fully aware of the often disastrous state of the world. The nineties theme runs throughout the show, which goes by quickly. Brace brings plenty of excitement to keep the audience interested.

It is not often that a magician who faces the sheer number of issues outside of his control that Brace faced on the day that this show was reviewed turns this in to such a positive. People both arrived and left late, and he could not have been more graceful about this, allowing both sets of individuals to run across his stage to get to and from the exit efficiently. Brace also had to deal with a dodgy microphone, which turned in to a lovely moment when his friend and techie joined him onstage to fix it. Sadly it did not last, and Brace eventually gave up on the microphone, but with his projection the whole audience could easily still hear him. He did not miss a beat through dealing with all this—perhaps a more impressive skill than any of the magic.

That being said, the magic was excellent as well. A card trick themed on Who Wants to be a Millionaire was a highlight of the show reviewed, with an enthusiastic participant (the very same lady who arrived late carrying two pints) who was happy to let Brace work his way through her phone book to find a friend who would pick up when she called. They found someone, in the end, leading to a much anticipated reveal, although with the onstage chemistry between Brace, his participant, and even her offstage friends, no one in the audience minded the extra long build up.

Just off bustling Bristo Square, Embrace the Impossible in Brace’s fantastic company is a great way to spend an hour of the Fringe, especially but not exclusively for those of us who remember the nineties. It may not be the kind of show that ordinarily comes with a lesson, it’s more of a good time show. However, the reviewed show certainly did—that if you can accept the uncontrollable problems in your life and make the best of it, you may just end up even more memorable than if you get caught up in trying to be perfect. Brace’s audience can safely expect a great show regardless of how much goes wrong around him.

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

MISS MAGIC

☆☆☆

Staged in one of the wee cabins tucked away in a disused section of the Omni Centre, Miss Magic, who introduces herself as Kay, is a hidden gem. From the start she establishes herself as one of the most interesting magicians at this year’s Fringe. Most magicians describe their journey to magic as a childhood obsession turned unexpected career path. Kay, on the other hand, used to be a professional trapeze artist, and only became a magician as an adult when an injury forced her retirement from the circus. While her life stories are told more as a way to introduce herself to the audience than as an integrated feature of the magical performance, the magic that she performs is to a high standard.

Kay uses a variety of sleight of hand magic and mentalism throughout her act. One magic effect stands out in particular, as it’s essentially the same effect as performed by a magician at this Fringe in one of the larger venues (albeit with distinct styles) and the Miss Magic version comes across as much more impressive. Her mentalism as well is difficult to find fault with. It’s definitely  a magazine sort of show, with little to connect the tricks beside Kay’s flow of patter, but the pieces themselves are great.

The audience feels integrated at every turn. Kay developes a strong relationship with the audience, she could probably hold their attention with stories about her life alone. With the relatively small venue size the majority of the audience could be included as participants in the tricks, and Kay takes full advantage, pulling from every group in the seats at least once. Leaning in to her femininity without relying on it, she is a welcoming presence on stage, occasionally poking fun at her audience as magicians do but all in good fun.

As one of the two female magicians at this year’s Fringe, Kay is set apart by that alone, but Miss Magic is worth a visit more for her skill and style. She has a central venue at a perfect time for after work drinks—an ideal combination. Go have fun watching this cool lady do her thing.

More information on Miss Magic and her performance dates can be found here.

LUKE OSELAND: DRUNK MAGIC

☆☆☆☆

Luke Oseland is evidentially locally renowned.  Enterprising neighbors of his venue, on noticing the busy queue on the evening that Drunk Magic was reviewed, called down “Would you like to see a magic trick?” before mooning the tipsy crowd.  This feat prompted cheers, but not as many as Oseland received for his first ever Fringe show.  A babyfaced twenty year old, Oseland may make those of us in our late twenties feel like dinosaurs—a few members of his audience could be heard fondly reminiscing about their own university days after the show.  However, despite his youth he has put together a strong, well-arranged show. 

Oseland never misses a trick.  He has a “free shot Friday” policy, luring audience participants to join him onstage with alcohol—and that’s not the only free drinks on offer, Oseland is generous with his booze.  He is never short of enthusiastic volunteers to help him out.  This easy rapport with the audience is a standout feature of the show.  The one time this drunk young man made a slightly unkind comment to an audience member he immediately self-corrected and apologized profusely.  He even managed to convince a stranger going to the toilet to buy him a pint of Guinness on the way back, and only just missed splitting the G—perhaps the one trick of the evening that didn’t go quite right. 

Wisely, Oseland performs his more dangerous stunt tricks first in the show, when he has not yet been drinking for as long.  A card trick in this section is particularly effective, with an expressive participant offering words of encouragement.  His later alcohol-themed reinterpretations of magic are perhaps the more interesting to see, as he has so perfectly fit the tricks in to his theme.  Many magicians have used a stopwatch to time themselves getting out of a straightjacket, but Oseland’s take is much more fun and challenging.  He is funniest in his off-the-cuff remarks to the audience, and while his more scripted patter has its moments it does occasionally feel like he is still developing his unique voice—the sole tell that this is his first Fringe.  

This publication was advised to see Oseland by the secretary of The Pentacle Club of Cambridge, who said that Oseland would be famous one day.  It’s easy to see why.  Oseland has carved out the perfect niche for his skill set and current drinking capacity, but it’s clear that his magical skill, creativity, and general charisma will give him ample room to pivot to a less drunken performance when he has to, and take him far.  Fringe goers can go to Drunk Magic to catch this star on the rise. 

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

THE MAGIC SHOW STARRING LIAM A BLACK AS THE GLITTERING PRINCE OF MAGIC

☆☆

One of the great features of the Fringe is that you can see shows in pretty much any venue imaginable. Bars, pubs, and restaurants all clear out their back rooms to use as venues, the university partners with the Fringe to allow use of many of their buildings, and even churches allow the use of their halls, like the one on Nicolson Square where Liam Black has staged his show, The Magic Show Starring Liam A Black as the Glittering Prince of Magic. The ostentatious wordiness of the title promises a certain kind of show, and Black largely delivers on this.

It has been said that the easiest way to be at the top of your field is to pick a small field. In that vein, Black is indisputably the best magician at the Fringe at costume changes—he has a huge number of them and each costume is more elaborate, more glittery, and overall more fabulous than the last. In fact, it can be safely said that Black’s show has the greatest concentration of glitter of all Fringe magic shows. Aside from his own costumes, Black includes a sparkly assistant and team of glitter-clad dancers in his act, and is actually too much of a pastiche for this to come across as sexist. The group song and dance numbers are a highlight.

However, there are a few areas where Black feels a bit flat, and unfortunately the magic is one of them. At the reviewed show his final reveal, for example, was sadly fairly obvious from the start—the word was written a bit too clearly for it to be hidden from the audience when shown upside down. Black also spent an unfortunate amount of time playfully lambasting the audience at large for not laughing at a few of his early jokes. This was fair enough at first but eventually felt like he was berating his audience for the fact that he wasn’t being funny. Whether the audience warmed up or he moved on to better material, they did eventually start to laugh with him. The show is a solid concept, and there are definitely plenty of elements that felt like he had gotten them right, but also plenty of room for improvement.

That being said, The Magic Show Starring Liam A Black as the Glittering Prince of Magic is more than just a magic show, it’s a satire of classic magic tropes with enough glitter to make a whole church sparkle. At its best it perfectly balances paying tribute to the classic magic shows of the past with poking fun at their less than ideal features. While perhaps not perfectly executed on this occasion, the concept there, and this reviewer for one will be curious to see what Black comes up with next.

More information on Liam A Black and his performance dates can be found here.

BEN HART: WONDER

☆☆☆☆☆

Edinburghers fear not: an obligatory goth magician remains stationed at the Pleasance Grand to guard the night.  Ben Hart’s Fringe show Wonder was all but sold out on a rainy Monday evening, a testament to the work he has been putting in to building his local fanbase over the past few Fringes. And as always, Hart does not disappoint.  With his warehouse-chic costuming and staging, Hart is in turn funny, unnerving, and magical, but never dull to watch—the whole hour is entirely captivating. 

To quote an insightful fellow reviewer, Hannah Risser, “magicians fucking love putting money in oranges”.  It’s about as cliché as finding a card from a shuffled deck.  This Fringe is lucky enough to see two re-imaginings of this classic effect that genuinely make it feel fresh, and one of them is here in Hart’s show.  Similarly, a classic restorative effect is here woven in to a story with a fantastic fully immersive conclusion.  This creativity keeps even those who go to multiple magic shows excited to see more. 

Some of Hart’s magic happens on a smaller scale, and Hart has employed a live stream camera to beam his hands up to two large screens above his stage.  He makes great use of this, he is excellent at playing to both the audience and the camera, and for bigger effects he uses the live stream to give the audience new perspectives from which to appreciate his magic.  While his participants get the super close view—and despite Hart’s well constructed eerie, disconcerting air no one is harmed—this ensures that the full audience feels included.  When the camera is not in use he’ll casually flick the buttons and lean on it, making it feel like a natural part of the show. 

Hart manages to end Wonder on a note that is both uplifting and darkly comic, the perfect combination for his show.  He warns the audience early on that he loves a plot twist, and the semi-meta nature of the one employed is wonderfully creative. The incredible Hart is well worth a ticket, and a return visit next Fringe as everyone who sees him will definitely want to see him again. 

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