Author: WMR

AVA BEAUX: THE MYSTERIOUS TALES OF POE

Ava Beaux’s Edgar Allan Poe-themed magic show ‘The Mysterious Tales of Poe’ can be found in a cozy room underneath The Street bar. Relatively new to performing, Beaux opens her show a little nervous at first, but quickly became more confident as she gets further along, and delivers a spellbinding performance.

Rather than jumping straight in to a succession of magic tricks, Beaux skillfully ties her show together through her re-telling of Poe’s short stories. Her act is not, in practice, strictly a magic show, as her spoken word performance shares an equal role. This is certainly to our benefit, as Beaux is a captivating storyteller. Her illusions and storytelling complement each other perfectly to bring Poe’s tales to life.

Beaux also uses sound and practical effects to enhance her act, her use of sound being particularly effective. The knocks of her tell-tale heart initially sound almost like background noise from the bar above, and gradually become more insistent and distinct as Beaux reaches the concluding lines of the story. This particular re-telling is an impressive highlight of her show.

While Beaux often uses her magic abilities to great effect, this aspect of her performance occasionally feels a little bit clumsier. Her hands at times stray a little too close to her suspiciously puffy sleeves, and her transitions after her tricks sometimes feel a bit hasty and awkward. Her final magic trick, as well, feels rushed, and, on the occasion of this review, did not land as solidly as she might have hoped. But while these are issues, given the multi-faceted nature of Beaux’s act they are fairly minor in context. Her magic tricks will probably quickly improve as she gains more experience, perhaps even over the course of this year’s Fringe.

The Mysterious Tales of Poe is well worth watching for the overall effect of Beaux’s performance. She excels at creating atmosphere—the audience truly feels transported in turn to a ship on a stormy ocean or a mysterious old mansion in the middle of the countryside. This show is an inventive and exciting addition to the Fringe magic scene. While her magic surely will continue to improve, Beaux’s storytelling is so fascinating that her audience can hardly notice any flaws.

#DAVE: CULT OF DAVE

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint why people choose their line of work, but Dave Alnwick does not leave his audience guessing why he became a magician: he wants you to join his cult.

In his “Cult of Dave” show, Alnwick makes the case for why he should be accepted into everyone’s hearts and minds as a God. He does this by performing his mentalist tricks and then giving the audience tips on how they can use the theories behind those tricks in their everyday lives. If they join his cult, he promises, he will teach them all of his skills.

This tutorial style makes his show especially interesting to watch. Alnwick reveals just enough to give the audience a greater appreciation for the difficulty of what he does. Some of his lessons do feel useful—advice on how to force a choice, or tips on how to tell whether or not someone is lying—although it is clear that these skills work best in the hands of a naturally charismatic individual like Alnwick.

It is that charisma that really makes this show fun. Alnwick has a great wit and charm that makes him entertaining to watch on stage, regardless of what he is doing. Even when he asks multiple members of the audience to choose numbers in preparation for his impressive final trick, he makes this potentially dull groundwork into an enjoyable part of his performance. He is the kind of performer who could probably make reading the dictionary into an entertaining show.

Alnwick does run in to the same problem as many other Free Fringe performers, in that the venues they perform in often have issues with outside noise permeating the main theatre. However, Alnwick reacted to this professionally and did not allow it to derail his show, and his excellent vocal projection was certainly appreciated at that juncture.

The “Cult of Dave” is a delightful show, both for magic enthusiasts and for anyone who just enjoys comedic live theatre. Alnwick skillfully controls his audience, creating impressive illusions while dispensing life advice in an incredibly fun performance.

CHRIS COOK: CONTROL

In his show “Control”, Chris Cook speaks a lot about not feeling in control of his life, and even says that he does not have complete control over what will happen in that show. But this is only partially correct- Cook quickly captivates his audience, and easily controls their full attention for the entire hour of his set.

Cook primarily performs sleight of hand tricks, and these are reliably inventive and surprising. It is a testament to his abilities that when he made a mess of a tomato that he ate onstage and took a moment to clean his hands, one almost expected he was about to reveal a new, uneaten tomato from the wreckage. His real tricks, however, are even more impressive.

Control includes many timely political references that both ingratiate Cook with the more liberal members of the audience, and help tie his tricks in to the story line of his show. Whether it’s a quick joke about mourning the death of the European Union, or Cook taking the time to read from and criticize Donald Trump’s book before using it as a prop in his next trick, the show decidedly favours the political left. American members of the audience in particular might be especially satisfied to find that Trump’s book does not emerge unscathed from its role in the show.

While the majority of Cook’s show does focus on sleight of hand, he does veer briefly into mentalism in an unexpectedly heartwarming final segment. His more serious themes are predominantly present as an undercurrent for the rest of the show, but here they take centre stage. Cook captivates the audience with his tricks and wit, and then uses that control over his viewers to instill his message of hope and motivation.

Cook’s “Control” is an excellent show that is definitely worth watching. Cook’s magic is creatively and skillfully performed. He excels both in performing big impressive tricks, and in creating small surprisingly magical moments in between the main illusions. In the end, it is his modesty that is particularly charming. Rather than using his considerable charisma solely to control his audience for the duration of the show, he gives that control back by inspiring us to exert what control we can over our own lives.

CASPAR THOMAS: MORE MAGIC AND MENTALISM

Caspar Thomas’s “More Magic and Mentalism” act does not rely on the padding of a theme or series of stories. It is, instead, a solid hour of magic tricks linked only by Thomas’s cheerful and free flowing banter.

Thomas uses this format to showcase his variety of magical skills. This show includes everything—card tricks, objects vanishing into thin air only to be summoned back in to existence, magically accurate deductive reasoning, and the classic magic rings. While accidents do happen, and audience members in the front two rows might notice the glitter and clink of supposedly “vanished” coins a split second before they are scheduled to re-appear, these tricks are, on the whole, performed with precision and skill.

This skill is what sets Thomas’s act apart, and makes his show worthwhile. The large crowd that gathered outside the venue for Thomas’s Friday evening performance was evidence that his expertise is notable and appreciated. Additionally, his act is handy for newcomers to magic, as it takes them through a quick introduction to the varieties of magic that are common amongst modern magicians.

One particularly commendable feature of Thomas’s act is that he makes a point of requesting volunteers before randomly choosing them from the audience. It is common knowledge that all attendants of magic shows are fair game to be chosen by the magician and paraded about the stage, which can be very intimidating. Magicians like Thomas make their acts much more approachable.

A negative feature of note is the poorly situated venue. Loud conversation and amateur singing could be heard at several points throughout the performance. Thomas successfully played it off in front of the audience, which is why these disruptions did not spoil the show, but it would surely be even better if he could reach an understanding with the others in the venue to ensure that he commands the full attention of his audience.

Thomas’s “More Magic” show is unpretentiously enjoyable magic. This act goes for breadth over depth without sacrificing quality or amusement, making for a great show.

COLIN CLOUD: DARE

The long, winding queue full of people waiting to see Colin Cloud’s “Dare” this evening attests to his undeniable renown. It can be so easy, as an ordinary audience member, to dismiss mind reading magic as an elaborate network of actors in league with the magician, or as normal people playing along with the magician out of compassion and pity. But despite those uncertainties, Cloud’s mind reading act clearly resonates with his substantial fan base, and it is easy to understand why.

Cloud frequently references his fascination with cults, and this becomes a theme throughout his performance, although without overwhelming his illusions. Whether it’s instructing the entire audience to wear masks of his own face or enjoying his ability to get the audience to clap on command, Cloud’s playful acknowledgement of his own charisma sets a lighthearted tone for the evening.

This is perhaps what gives Cloud’s show its broad appeal. While most of the crowd on a Saturday evening appeared to be adults, it was easy to imagine a higher percentage of families with young children attending on summer weekday evenings. Cloud is fascinating enough to hold adults’ attention, and his tricks are entertaining enough to engage with younger audiences.

Magicians who perform mind reading tricks generally employ measures to convince the audience of their integrity. Cloud’s most interesting procedure to this effect is to take advantage of the ubiquity of social media. Early on in the show, Cloud requests that everyone post an embarrassing secret or shameful desire to social media using the hashtag #colinclouddare. He later guesses individuals’ secrets, and invites the audience to check his accuracy by reading through that hashtag. This clever blend of magic and social media marketing proves to be a delightful way of involving the audience in the act.

Colin Cloud delivers classic mind reading magic in a show for all the ages, and sets himself apart by incorporating social media in fun and interesting ways. Cloud then links this back in to his theme of cults to neatly bind his act together. The net effect is a solidly enjoyable evening of magical entertainment. Cloud describes himself as a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and his Fringe show is definitive evidence in favour of that claim—with the caveat that, unlike a detective, a magician never reveals his secrets.

BEN HART: BELIEF?

Early on in his show, Ben Hart compares magic to time travel- a way of recapturing the powerful feelings of surprise and amazement that many adults feel are gradually beaten down by the passage of time. His skillful and intriguing tricks in ‘Belief?’ certainly manage to inspire such emotions.

The hour does begin with a little bit more intensity than would perhaps be expected from a magic show. In his opening sequence, Hart describes the performance of the trick of making objects disappear as a form of self-harm; he details how performing such tricks caused him to forget who and where he was, losing his identity. This may have been part of why the first word used to describe his show in the official Fringe description is “dark”. Ultimately, it made me a little bit worried about him. That intensity continues as a theme throughout, although it quickly simmers down to calmer, less concerning, levels.

Hart continuously integrates his illusions into his storytelling. He tells the audience a story—topics range from describing prejudices against a sewage worker to an explanation of Schrodinger’s cat—and then transitions seamlessly into a trick with that theme. Hart keeps the audience engaged in his stories both with his personality and with clever use of light. For one story, he sits with a bright light shining directly on him, evoking a pleasant modern campfire effect.

This storytelling aspect does result in a lower concentration of actual magical content. While his entire act as an artist is certainly appealing to an audience composed primarily of adults, it is perhaps not the best choice for children. However, Hart engaged with the one child in his audience by inviting him to take part in one of the tricks, which is a nice gesture toward guardians who may have expected a more traditional child-oriented magic performance.

Hart’s show is an interesting and absorbing way to spend an hour. His use of storytelling both to entertain and to incorporate his magic into his theme gives his act a pleasant and calming flow. ‘Belief?’ does not feel like just another magic show, but a polished performance piece. Both the cohesiveness of theme and the pervasiveness of Hart’s personal style set this show apart and make it both enjoyable and worthwhile to watch.

AN INTERVIEW WITH HAYDINI

After Hayden Childress (aka Haydini)’s recent performance in Charlotte (review here), he gave reviewer Hannah R. the chance to chat with him a bit about his passion for magic.

Hannah: On your website it says you started performing magic when you were ten years old. What inspired you to start learning magic?

Hayden: I was always into weird things when I was younger. I can remember there was this Disney Channel Original Movie called Now You See Me, and during the commercial breaks they would teach magic tricks. I learned them and showed them to my family and friends and started from there.

Who would you say are some magicians and performers who inspire you?

I had the privilege to perform with Mack King in Las Vegas. What I really enjoy about his shows is how the magic comes from the crowd. Of course I also look up to people like David Copperfield and Penn & Teller.

We already know about your passion for magic, so what are some other hobbies you enjoy?

I really like learning languages and love music as well. I also enjoy being outdoors and hiking. I don’t own a lot and am pretty minimalistic; I like having experiences more than things.

You mentioned in your show you recently graduated from college. Do you feel you’ve been able to incorporate what you’ve learned into your performances?

Well, I went to business school so I’ve definitely been able to use what I learned in terms of marketing, merchandise, etc. As far as magic I always found data collection and its use interesting and I definitely like to see how I can apply that to magic by attempting to make correct predictions based on what I know.

You’re making quite a name for yourself in Charlotte and the audience really enjoyed your show. What do you have planned for the future?

My goals would have to be bigger shows and more cities. A lot of people who don’t live near big cities don’t have access to magic and I’d love to be able to take my show to places like that and give them a show they wouldn’t have otherwise.

 

If you’d like to see Haydini or learn more about him, visit his website