2 Stars

MASON KING: SLEIGHT OF MIND

☆☆

Mason King’s Sleight of Mind is a primer on classic mentalism effects. A confident performer,  every piece of King’s show is delivered with the utmost technical perfection, from preparing the audience for what is to come to chaining together the different ways he would read their minds. Nothing in Sleight of Mind is uncomfortable, nothing is offensive. Over the course of the hour reviewed King received one single surprised gasp, a few chuckles, and polite applause for the majority of his tricks, most of them without having to overtly prompt the audience to do so.

But, I’m afraid to say, shows like this are exactly why some people don’t like magic shows. Magic isn’t off-putting when it’s actually bad, no, that makes it horrifically interesting. It’s off-putting when it is bland. Sleight of Mind really is just a primer- nothing more and nothing less than every trick in some fictional volume of mentalism standards, with a few general magic standards thrown in.  Everything from the tricks done to the words around them is like script from someone and everyone else’s book, even when King introduces himself: I was (enter number under 15) years old when I got into magic, here’s a line about my mentor, here’s how I’m going to read your mind.

Sleight of Mind has no narrative, no theme, no gimmick, no twist. King makes no real attempt at comedy and has no sense of comedic timing, nor does he afford the audience a sense of himself, or his personality, or make an effort to tie the humanity and stories of his audience members in. He gives us no reason to care, no reason to be invested, no reason to spend money to see his show. Sleight of Mind is a perfect first draft, a perfect skeleton, a perfect ‘what’ and ‘how’ to overlay with ‘why?’ Now all King needs is to find that missing piece, to find the ‘why’, or, if he knows it, to share it with his audiences. Because truthfully, that it the piece that matters the most.

 

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

MANDY MUDEN: IS NOT THE INVISIBLE WOMAN

☆☆

With her bold style and even bolder personality, Mandy Muden is anything but invisible.  Muden’s premise for “Is not the Invisible Woman” is that women “of a certain age” are overlooked often enough to feel invisible, and she has set out to prove that she, at least, still commands attention.

However, Muden is let down by her magic, which is often basic and clumsy.  Her tricks are at their best when she incorporates them into her overall performance, as this marginally raises the audience’s emotional investment.  A section illustrating a romantic relationship ending poorly using several bits of string shifts Muden’s performance to an unexpectedly melancholic tone, despite the maintenance of her playful character, but is a highlight in how she uses magic.

Perhaps ironically, Muden’s many jokes about and references to being a woman “of a certain age” get old fast, especially as they start to sound repetitive.  It is possible that viewers who feel like they fit in to the category that she describes would appreciate this element of her show a bit more, and that she intentionally caters to this audience.  She is at least consistent in maintaining her theme.

Muden develops a patchy relationship with her audience, teasing her participants  slightly more than necessary, even when the participant in question was visibly uncomfortable. She was lucky in that the majority of her participants responded well to this approach.  Her repeated instructions to get her male participants to weigh themselves to contribute numbers for part of her final reveal could be construed as commentary on social pressures on women’s bodies.  However, it is left to the audience to decide whether her method of making this point is too neglectful of the similar pressures on men’s bodies that may be relevant in the lives of her participants.

Muden has a solid goal in her show in demonstrating to the audience and perhaps also to herself that she is not limited by her age and gender.  Her execution may have a more niche appeal.  Nevertheless she certainly succeeds in her aim—in fact, it is difficult to imagine Muden ever being overlooked.

 

More information on Mandy Muden and her performance dates can be found here.

DINO DORADO: EXPERIENCE

Dino Dorado welcomes his audience to Experience himself and his mind reading tricks in this show.  Incredibly enough he is even performing in his non-native language—Dorado is Austrian but his English is strong enough for an entire mind reading show.  This is extraordinary enough from a monolingual English perspective.  Dorado’s mind reading itself, however, is patchy.  He has difficulty recovering from a rough start, although he does, in the end, get himself back on track.

The rough patch hit Dorado at the very start of his show.  Dorado mis-read his participants’ minds on his first few attempted effects.  This is understandable, mistakes do happen.  Magicians are people too.  However, as a performer Dorado could have dealt with the situation a bit better.  He was visibly dispirited at each miscalculation, and seemed to lose a bit more of his performance persona at every misstep.  Dorado would have been better off keeping his performance energy high and keeping the audience engaged in watching him.

That being said, Dorado’s mind reading skills picked up as the show went on.  His spirits and energy picked up in direct correlation as his effects began to have more successful results.  By the time he managed to correctly determine two pieces of meaningful information thought up by two different participants, he had fully regained his enthusiastic energy and the audience’s wonder.  His early errors did have the beneficial side effect of making his later successes appear that little bit more impressive in contrast.

Once Dorado had gotten his mind reading back on track, his exuberant stage presence was able to shine.  All of Dorado’s audience participants—although perhaps especially his later participants, who he was better able to read—were made to feel welcome on his stage.  Dorado likes to get physically close with his participants of all genders, but his mannerisms make this playful and nonthreatening.

Dorado’s show was a mixed Experience on the evening that it was reviewed.  He could not consistently back up his requests for applause from the audience with solid magic, or even consistent showmanship.  However, if the latter half of his show is any indication, he does have the potential for a much better performance.

 

More information on Dino Dorado and his performance dates can be found here

BRANDON BARRETT: BRAIN ACCESS

Brandon Barrett is easily the youngest performer to be reviewed by this publication so far.  His initiative in taking the step of putting on an hour long Fringe show at such a young age in pursuit of his goal of working as a magician is admirable.  Brain Access certainly has its high points.  It is clear that Barrett has done his research by attending more established magicians’ shows—perhaps at times too clear, as some aspects of his performance feel a little bit too much like an imitation of other performers.  Nevertheless Barrett shows promise as a budding comedy magician.

The playful first trick sets the tone for Barrett’s show.  He simultaneously impresses the audience with his trick while joking about their expectations.  Barrett performs other tricks with character as well, including a mind reading trick that integrates his set design.  His finale is non-magical but dramatic, and features an interesting degree of audience participation, as Barrett allows an audience member to choose the soundtrack for his last effect.

Barrett describes himself as a comic magician, and he endeavors to give near equal stage time to his comedy performance as his magic tricks.  This often works to his advantage, as he has a lot of great comedy material, but he does joke an awful lot about his young age.  His emphasis on his age does have the perhaps desired effect of impressing the audience with his accomplishments relative to his youth, but as he belabors the point so frequently it becomes unwelcome.

In terms of magic, Barrett unfortunately has enough issues with his sleight of hand that the frequency of the props peeking out at the wrong moments is distracting.  Additionally, some of his mannerisms come across as forced.  It is clear that he is still working on his style.  However, these flaws are completely understandable given his age and level of experience.

While Barrett’s Brain Access has its flaws, these all come across as experience-based issues that a young magician like Barrett should have plenty of time to remedy.  Both his magical skills and performance persona would benefit from additional work.  But Barrett is on the right track, as getting out in front of a crowd is the best way to get this practice.

 

More information on Brandon Barrett and his performance dates can be found here

BREAKING THE MAGICIANS’ CODE WITH KANE & ABEL

If you’re a magician out there worrying about your code being broken, I’m here to tell you that you can relax. Kane & Abel do not break the magicians’ code, in fact, they probably would’t be able to if they tried (they don’t).

Breaking the Magicians code is a difficult show to describe, mostly due to it’s erratic nature. The two magicians do start with this concept of performing a trick, then walking through how they did it to ‘break the code.’ This idea is, however, quickly abandoned, with the impression of it having just been forgotten about.

Kane & Abel continue on to do further magic tricks, and, now without their overarching theme, their show falls into random, erratic, and poorly planned. There seems to be little attempt to connect one moment to the next, and the result is a mishmash of jumbled effects.

Contributing to this feel of messiness is the fact that Kane & Abel are clearly improvising their humor through large parts of the show. This one aspect is unique in being more impressive than it is distracting. Kane & Abel have developed a strong feel for banter, both between themselves and with their audience. Their on-stage personas juxtapose well with each other, and their cheek is admittedly endearing, if at times excessively juvenile.

Breaking the Magicians’ Code with Kane & Abel isn’t a cohesive experience and the messiness is distracting and at times tedious, but the magicians themselves bring an affable cheesiness to the show.

 

Kane & Abel can be found at Liquid Room Annex (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 13:15 from August 17-21, 23-26

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

SEAN HARRINGTON: SELF DECEPTION

Perceptual manipulation is an inherent component of magic, but is rarely discussed in any depth in magic shows.  Sean Harrington’s Self Deception is a well assembled show that highlights several of the facets of psychology that are especially relevant to magic.  This does not come across as a psychology lecture, for better or for worse, as the emphasis is decidedly on the magic tricks.  Nevertheless, the psychological themes prove effective at creating a structure for Harrington’s magic.

In one of his opening sequences, Harrington uses coin tricks to illustrate inattentional blindness, perhaps more famously illustrated in the experiment involving basketball players and a gorilla that Harrington cites as inspiration.  These are well performed, and easily engage the attention of even the children in the audience.

Harrington frames another trick as a tribute to the discredited science of phrenology.  While the way in which he “uses” phrenology is not really how phrenology works, this is perhaps forgivable as phrenology does not actually work, a fact with Harrington makes sure to state to his audience.  It does, however, work as a fun framework in which Harrington performs his tricks.

There is room for improvement in Harrington’s performance.  His magic tricks are skillfully done, but he might work on his use of the time between tricks, which does occasionally fall a bit flat.  This is especially noticeable in his final trick, which requires some length of preparatory work prior to the big reveal.  Harrington gets the audience involved in this stage, but it does still feel like the dull necessary procedure to reach the exciting conclusion, rather than an integrated and entertaining component of the show.  Performing well through these transition times is key to creating a cohesive show out of a collection of tricks.

In Self Deception Harrington has put together a fun set of magic tricks, which do for the most part fit in well with his psychology theme.  Harrington interacts well with an audience of mixed ages.  While there are elements of Harrington’s performance that could definitely do with more polish, his creative use of his theme has enabled him to design an interesting magic show.

 

Sean Harrington can be found at La Vida Room 1 (Venue 113) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:30

More information on Sean Harrington and his performance dates can be found here

A CASE OF WONDERS BY SAM FITTON

☆☆

With a promisingly exciting premise, “A Case of Wonders” opens on Sam Fitton running through the train station, only to miss his train. He then falls asleep waiting for the next train, and enters a dream world where magic is real. The performance continues in this realm to showcase Fitton’s sleight of hand and juggling tricks.

Fitton’s show includes many high points. His magic tricks are frequently well performed and fun to watch. His pantomimed vending machine is a particularly creative means to incorporate his train station theme with classic coin tricks. Once the character that he performs overcomes his initial fear of his new environment, Fitton’s rapport with the audience improves noticeably. While a few of his interactions with audience volunteers feel a bit mean spirited, with the audience encouraged to laugh at their peers for not following Fitton’s vague instructions, Fitton rewards his volunteers with refreshments as he leads them back to their seats.

Unfortunately, the promising premise itself runs into a few performance issues as well. The extended introductory sequence feels a bit too long, without much of note happening. Fitton’s pretend surprise to be transported to a magical alternate reality is rather too exaggerated as well, making him appear genuinely uncomfortable to be performing in front of a crowd. Additionally, the Case of Wonders itself feels under-used, considering its place in the title of the show.

Many of these flaws may be significantly mitigated from a more childlike perspective. Fitton’s exaggerated acting and teasing of his volunteers seems like the sort of thing that would play much better to an audience full of children. This is no small thing, entertaining children is notoriously difficult. Many magicians give up on it entirely and only aim their shows at an adult audience. Fitton’s child friendly act thus establishes this show at the heart of an important niche of family magic.

“A Case of Wonders” is a perfect show to take young children in need of a bit of morning entertainment to. From an adult perspective it is not without its flaws, but is still solidly fun and admirably creative.

 

More information on Sam Fitton and his performance dates can be found here