2 Stars

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.

 

More information on Ben Dali and his performance dates can be found here

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.

 

More information on Oliver Meech and his performance dates can be found here

Originally published here

DEJA VU – A MIND READING SHOW LIKE YOU WON’T HAVE SEEN BEFORE

☆☆

Deja Vu, according to a very quick Google search I just did, means ‘a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.’ Now, while Francis Girola did inspire this feeling throughout his performance, it was more in relation to his incessant need to repeat the definition more than necessarily fulfilling it in a magical sense.

The repetition of some slightly dull patter, however, did not stop this show from entertaining. It’s always hilarious to see your friends picked on in front of an audience and, in this regard Deja Vu did not disappoint.The show kicked off with Girola easing the audience into a comfortable state by synchronizing our heartbeats. All though he was only somewhat successful at this, which was awkwardly apparent in the small room, he did seem to become more at ease, having gotten this first bit of his show done despite a stammered introduction. But presentation aside, the point of a magic show is to present to your audience something unbelievable, and that he did. Girola could not only seemingly read the minds of his audience, but at one point even enchant them into reading each others thoughts. He knew private information about people in the audience, information that could not possibly be known – and yet, there it was! Of course, the suspension of disbelief here is a bit charitable, as at no point were provably random members of the audience used as participants- all of them were chosen by Girola.

But even for skeptics, the sight of an audience member with a cardboard box on his head, reading a peers mind and drawing a terrible Christmas tree is hilarious. And if you should choose to be enchanted by this introduction to deja vu, you could certainly do worse than this free ticket to an hour of a funny French mentalist.

Original publication here