2 Stars

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

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

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.

AAABEDUATION: A MAGIC SHOW

☆☆

“We are the first show… in the Edinburgh Fringe Guide” magicians Malin Nilsson and Charlie Caper crow happily, claiming this as the reason for their strangely named show. This seems odd to be the sole reason to name a show, but as no other explanation is given, we just have to go with it. This sets the trend for this show which might have been inspired at the start, but doesn’t exactly follow through into a satisfying result.

Nilsson and Caper both hail from Switzerland and have been doing magic together for several years, so it is unfortunate that their chemistry together is the weakest aspect of the show. Caper is the comedy magician of the pair and Nilsson the choreographed illusionist. Instead of the two parts of the performance complementing each other, the combination is jarring in its delivery. However, they are both reasonably strong separately, so not a hopeless dealbreaker.

For most of her part of the show, Nilsson does magic tricks silently to music. They are very elegantly performed and she has an excellent sense of stylistic development, but they are a bit hackneyed. Even if someone only has seen a couple other magic shows, they have probably seen these illusions before. That’s no problem if presented with original flair and personality, but as she does them they just come across stale and the applause is accordingly muted.

Caper delivers with such endearing cheesiness that even things that shouldn’t be funny are because of his perfect presentation. An ongoing joke with a bow tie never fails to gain laughter and his great persona means that – although he also uses traditional magic in parts – it comes across as more original and compelling, if not as well rehearsed.

Caper and Nilsson struggle with integrating the two distinctive parts of their performance, but if they can solve this problem, Aaabeduation will succeed in becoming a bewitching show.

Originally published here

TRICNIC

☆☆

Tricnic is a comedy magic show featuring twin magicians Kane and Abel who reject your preconceived notions of the props and common items magic is usually done with and instead perform with food. Tricnic is exactly what it sounds like – a picnic of tricks.

In terms of the tricks, the magicians do not do anything uniquely original or surprising, but that is forgivable in a magic show when the presentation is skillful and entertaining. However, in this regard they also struggle. Surprisingly, considering that they are twin brothers, Kane and Abel have a more awkward and stilted lack of chemistry than random strangers shoved on a stage together would. This uncomfortable dynamic is distracting from the show and means that even when the tricks pay off, it is hard to take any pleasure from them. Luckily, this magic show is situated next to a bar but that still wasn’t enough for some of the audience at the performance I attended, as some people slunk or even blatantly strolled out mid show.

To their favour, Kane and Abel are competent magicians, and their chosen shtick of a trick picnic is fun. Unfortunately, the bits that involve audience participation- which is most of them- the magical duo prove that they are just as weak at interacting onstage with people who aren’t related to them. In cases where poor direction leads audiences to fumble with what they are meant to do, they are mocked by the magicians. This is to be expected, but the lack of any true, connecting humor in their mockery makes it sound harsh and uncomfortable to the audience. It also means that the different tricks are drawn out to the point of feeling pained as Kane and Abel attempt to get the necessary participation accomplished. Even when they get there in the end, any true momentum and impact has been irrevocably lost.

Tricnic is a free show, and the idea of it isn’t bad at all. With more rehearsal with each other, and by adopting a more natural banter as their onstage patter, the brothers could probably get past their wooden interactions.and deliver an entertaining performance.

Originally published here

STRICTLY COME TRANCING

☆☆

Lunchtime is perhaps not the right time for a hypnosis show for adults. Strictly Come Trancing is a show where you can see how it could have been great – if only the sky had been a bit darker and the audience participants a bit tipsier.

The beginning of the performance is promising. Despite hypnotist Ben Dali’s suit screaming ‘sleazy’, his brand of humor is genuine and unaffected, connecting very well with his audience and establishing a base of comradery. Unfortunately, this is quickly lost.

The first thing that goes wrong is that Dali invites his participants onstage instead of doing an opening induction of hypnosis on the audience while people are in their seats. Giving people the option of bringing themselves onto the stage of their own will means that they later feel welcome to leave it in the same fashion. Once people are onstage, the hypnotic inductions are unnecessarily long. Perhaps Dali doesn’t feel comfortable starting the show without this, but the length of it seems boring – and quite probably for those onstage as well. Once the show actually starts, the audience has high expectations for the wait to pay off. Sadly it does not.

In most shows, you cannot blame the audience for the performance being bad. But it is difficult to find fault with Dali’s act. Rarely are all the participants in a stage hypnosis show going to be hypnotised. This doesn’t matter if people play along and give their friends something to laugh at. After all, they choose to be on the stage. But despite Dali’s best efforts, he cannot manage to summon up the necessary humor and connection with his participants to make them want to stay. To his credit, he troops on through the act impressively despite the quickly dispersing participants, but this actually just makes it more painful to watch.

Dali’s Strictly Come Trancing is a funny show with a great title, and is a great and free way to spend an hour laughing at your friends doing silly – but not humiliating – things. But in order for everyone to appreciate it, the people onstage participating need to commit to the show. Because if not, it is an tragically awkward experience.

Originally published here

OLIVER MEECH’S IMPROVISED MAGIC SHOW

☆☆

Oliver Meech is no stranger to the Edinburgh Fringe, having brought his show When Magic and Science Collide in previous years. However, this Fringe, Meech aspires to do something a little different than a traditional magic show, and combines his skills for illusion with – as the title says – improv. While this sounds very impressive in theory, in practice the link is a bit tenuous. Although Meech does indeed incorporate words from the audience into his show, they are very obviously nonsensical connections and the show would have probably been identical no matter what they were. This is fine on it’s own terms, but if you were expecting the advertised improvisation, you might be disappointed.

Meech’s presentation has a huge variance in its different aspects. In terms of personability and energy, he excels. He has a very amiable, engaging stage presence. This put any volunteers he brings onto his stage at ease. In the performance I attended at least, he tries to focus on children for volunteers, although this may have been simply because the front row happened to be full of them that particular day. This stage presence in personality falls short in visual presentation, unfortunately. Meech’s decision to call his show ‘improvised’ may attempt to cover the sparseness of the set, as if he and we were there by simple accident, making a show together on a whim and out of cardboard boxes. This could have worked, except there is no consistency in it – while one side of the stage has the scribbled-on cardboard boxes, the other side has his personalised (twitter handle plugging) suitcase and a nice room divider. The poor presentation also carries over to his own appearance- dressing casually for a performance is one thing, having large and obvious sweat stains on your clothing is another.

In skill at least, Meech proves himself to be a more than competent magician, performing tricks that have the audience wondering ‘how could he have done that?’ But they do not wonder quite as much as he probably would like, because explanations and lead-ups to the tricks come across as rushed and do not allow for proper consideration of what is happening. While the bouncy, energetic persona of Meech works in terms of charming his audience, it also comes with a tendency to hasten through bits of his show and make them less impressive than they could be.

Oliver Meech’s Improvised Magic show sounds promising in theory, and with more polish and direction, it has excellent potential.

Originally published here