Author: WMR

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.

DAVID ALNWICK: NIGHTMARE MAGIC

☆☆☆☆☆

As a reviewer it can be a little bit annoying when a performer reworks a show that previously merited five stars and makes it even better—of course we’re happy for them, and pleased to be able to watch such a great show, but it’s hard to contend with how to rate an already perfectly rated performance. David Alnwick’s Nightmare Magic is similar enough that returning fans will have an idea of what they are getting themselves in for, but different enough to come across as a distinct play/magic show.  Alnwick is exceptional, as ever, and is possibly even scarier than before, but that’s why the audience chooses to attend this show. 

An immediately new feature this year is the playbill that each person is handed on entering.  It features Alnwick’s usual list of recommendations and social media details—the food recommendation section may be new—as well as, more excitingly, a short story written by Alnwick that he asks the audience to read before the show.  Nightmare Magic previously bridged the genres of theatre and magic, but now includes literature as well.  Alnwick’s vision is matched only by his skill, every aspect of this ambitious project is executed to the highest level. 

The acclaim is of course due to Alnwick, but the realized ambition of Nightmare Magic is also a testament to what can be achieved within the PBH Free Fringe.  The PBH is better known for its accessibility for less-well-known artists to put on their first Fringe show or two, but here we see it equally well suited to a seasoned performer at the height of popularity creating bold new work. 

The magic of Nightmare Magic is perfectly executed and perfectly woven in to the narrative.  The most satisfying is watching the final moment of the show slowly revealed over the course of several effects.  Alnwick hasn’t just used magic here, it’s fully integrated and necessary to the narration of his plotline—a truly magical ghost story.  Audience members and participants in particular may feel lightly terrified of Alnwick’s scary character, but no more than is called for. 

When promoting Nightmare Magic in his other shows Alnwick is keen to emphasize that it may not be the right choice for the full range of his fans.  It’s certainly a departure from his classic magic style. Nightmare Magic, however, is perfect if you don’t mind the fright, for when you want to see a wider range of what the incredible Alnwick is capable of. 

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

STUNT MAGICIAN: SABOTAGE

☆☆☆

Danger Dave Reubens is very wholesome for a man who opens his show by drilling holes in himself.  Stunt Magician: Sabotage is premised on Reubens receiving threatening letters from a would-be saboteur, and using the audience to help him discover the identity of this nemesis and save the show, a bit like an interactive magical Scooby Doo.  His larger-than-life cartoonish personality fills the large warehouse, and keeps the undivided attention of even his youngest fans. 

Reubens uses a range of familiar dangerous magic routines to build his storyline, as well as fun danger-themed takes on other tricks.  He definitely doesn’t do any card tricks, which he sounds very pleased about—and to be fair it is unusual for a magic show to feel complete without any cards involved.  His escapology series is especially fun to watch, he demonstrates his ability to escape from a few different types of handcuffs, and his take on Russian Roulette brings in a bit of fear without breaking UK gun legislation or making any members of the audience feel threatened. 

To be fair none of the audience ever feel threatened during Sabotage, regardless of whether they are on or off stage.  While for a few tricks Reubens understandably favors adults to join him onstage, he seems to make an effort to get as many kids involved as possible when appropriate.  The children who do go up to him look delighted to walk amongst the scary-looking props but are kept away from anything potentially genuinely dangerous. 

Reubens is the kind of children’s performer who keeps their adults engaged as well, even if only out of curiosity of how he will resolve his show’s plot, which he does to great effect with his lovely wholesome panache.  He is a great performer especially for parents who want to indulge the excessive sadism of undeveloped young minds while still ensuring that their small ones leave with a positive message. 

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

CAMERON YOUNG: A SECRET SHOW

☆☆☆

At around noon at the Fringe, getting to Cameron Young’s Secret Show feels like an early morning; perhaps the non-Fringe equivalent would be having to get to the office at 6AM. He has less time slot competition from his fellow magicians than with sleep. However, for the early birds it’s a worthwhile way to pass the time.

At the beginning of the show Young introduces the audience to his numbered binder of tricks—instantly appealing for its tidy organization, the audience knows they aren’t in for the kind of chaotic magic show that results in a mess of loose cards and sundry props strewn across the stage. Young allows the audience to choose the number of the trick that he’ll perform. This is a great gimmick, giving everyone a chance to feel agency in creating the direction of the show, and giving each day of the show a distinct flavor. As Young states, anyone who doesn’t like the show is welcome to buy a ticket for the next day and see him perform something a bit different.

Despite giving himself more to master, each trick that Young performed at the reviewed show looks well practiced. A highlight is a card routine that failed to get fourteen year old Young a date with his math class crush. The audience participant enthusiastically returned his flirtatious dance moves, and looked thrilled with the reveal that happened right between her teeth.

As an early show, the majority of Young’s audience were older folks and families with young children. He is great with both age groups, inviting older folks to get in touch with their silly sides and making sure excitable youngsters don’t interrupt him too much while avoiding shutting them down. At least two children in his front row left badgering their parents for magic lessons; we look forward to reviewing them in about a decade and hearing their re-telling of how Young inspired them.

The Secret Show is definitely worth a visit, perhaps especially for families but enjoyable for all ages. This is only Young’s first show of the day, like a few performers he runs two shows a day. However, what really makes him stand out (and is perhaps the most baller move of this year’s Fringe) is that he has this Secret Show through the paid Fringe, and his second show with the PBH free fringe. If it’s anything like this one his second show is surely worth checking out as well.

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

KEVIN QUANTUM: DARK MATTER

☆☆☆☆

Local magic celebrity Kevin Quantum made a splash right before this Sunday afternoon showing of Dark Matter, coming in to the audience to take photos with a few of the families in his front row. Cameras came out up and down the audience as people tried to catch paparazzi shots of Quantum.

It’s unclear just how much of his sold out crowd is there due to his run on Britain’s Got Talent, but he plays a clip of some of his judgement in Dark Matter. The comment made by one judge that Quantum is “like a sexy Doctor Who” is played a few times, and to be fair it is difficult to imagine ever receiving a more flattering compliment. Quantum’s audition took place shortly before lockdown shut everything down, and that theme of returning to new opportunities threads through the show.

Dark Matter is an afternoon show, attracting plenty of families, and Quantum is great with the kids in his audience. One section of the show sees Quantum running up and down the aisle with a pack of cards and other close up props, finding a few lucky children to perform for right in front of their seats. He is followed by a cameraman, projecting the magic to a large screen at the front of the theater, so while the children in question get a special experience no one is left out.

However the indisputable highlight of the reviewed show has to be one of Quantum’s older audience participants, Sandy, who joined him onstage for a series of card tricks. The audience got to watch a lovely bromance blossom between Sandy and Quantum, as they laughed and danced together. Sandy was the kind of visibly delighted, down for anything participant that magicians must dream of. Regardless of how many times members of the audience may have seen this particular card trick performed at other magic shows, Sandy made the experience of it at Quantum’s show memorable.

Quantum’s blend of science and magic is always a cross-generation hit. He discusses at the end of the show that he and his young daughter created a magic education YouTube series over lockdown that is now turning in to a magical education video series for use in schools—a project that sounds like a perfect fit for Quantum’s range of skills. While the specific magic of his relationship with audience participants may change from day to day, Quantum is, as ever, a hit of the family-friendly Fringe program.

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

KANE & ABEL: TWINPOSSIBLE

☆☆☆

Kane & Abel didn’t have to look too hard to find each other as their magic partners, they were lucky enough each have to have been born with the ideal magician with whom to share the stage. Twinpossible puts their sweet sibling relationship at center stage. They didn’t look far for their premise either, going for the theme of “twins” to loosely tie their tricks together. While the theme may be weak, more importantly their relationship and magical skills are strong.

The tricks that they perform are largely takes on the classics—for example a rope sequence with an extra long rope, or a card finding trick with an extra spectacular reveal. Each one is adjusted to fit their style, but even more cleverly, they take great advantage of having the both of them onstage. They don’t just play off each others’ energy, they have created versions of effects that could not be performed with just one magician. This helps set them apart as a bit more than just twins together onstage, it gives a bit of a bite to their act—although there are also moments where each performer is able to shine as an individual.

While many magicians developed their tricks over the lockdown, Kane & Abel seem to have more noticeably improved their storytelling. The magic is great too, but what jumps out this year is how well their effects are integrated into the little stories that they tell. It’s an interesting, welcome development, and definitely piques interest in continuing to follow their careers. Twinpossible is a fun lunchtime interlude at the Voodoo Rooms—in the lovely ballroom, the prime PBH venue. Even on weekdays the timing is great for both tourists and nearby office workers, and they will surely all enjoy watching Kane and Abel. 

More information on Kane & Abel and their performance dates can be found here.

CASPAR THOMAS: SLEIGHT OF HANDKERCHIEF

☆☆☆

In popular culture the “witching hour” is a dramatic time of night, midnight or shortly thereafter.  At the Fringe, on the other hand, the “witching hour” evidentially occurs around three or four PM—consistently the busiest couple of hours for magic shows.  So Caspar Thomas has his work cut out for him in getting people in to Sleight of Handkerchief.  The theme, of course, is the handkerchief, that vibrant and ubiquitous magic prop. 

As is expected given the theme, it’s a relatively old fashioned magic show.  This is not to its detriment, it’s the show’s niche in the Fringe magic ecosystem.  Good Omens fans, picture if Aziraphale used his celestial powers in that children’s birthday party scene and you’ll get a decent idea of Thomas’s magic style.  The multicolored scarves make for a visually pleasing experience, and Thomas is adept at putting them through their paces.  His range of tricks include the usual handkerchief effects, as well as many that he has adapted to make use of these pretty props. 

In a cozy venue and with Thomas’s kind demeanor, joining him onstage feels less like joining a performance and more like helping a pal demonstrate his cool skills.  Nothing remotely scary or onerous is asked of the participants, Thomas does all the work in this chill show.  Many audience members are able to join in from their seats as well, such as when Thomas brings out his big rings.  He asks a few people to give them a bit of a tug but when the magic happens it’s entirely in his hands. 

The audience knows what they’re going to get with a show called Sleight of Handkerchief, and Thomas delivers it well.  The relaxed atmosphere is very different from the high energy of, for example, a standard comedy magic show, and this is a nice change of pace at the busy Fringe.  Magic fans could do a lot worse. 

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