3 Stars

MICHAEL BRANDIE: BIZARRE

Michael Brandie opens Bizarre by saying that he was shunned from the mind reading community for doing magic, and from the magic community for doing mind reading. This might sound a little bit odd to anyone who has just spent a week at the Fringe watching magic shows, as many incorporate elements of both mind reading and sleight of hand, which may be what Brandie is referring to when he says “magic”. However, while he does do some mind reading, Brandie’s focus is primarily the types of magic tricks that might be classed as dangerous stunts, or perhaps “scary magic”.

A theme of Bizarre is Brandie’s love for old films, he uses film names in mind reading tricks and references films in the set-up for many of his stunts. This does not put off viewers who are unfamiliar with his favorite films, as he explains all of his references thoroughly enough for his audience to understand them. However, it adds an extra level of engagement for film fans in the audience, and even for those who are not in the know it is lovely to see that added personal element give flavor to the show.

Brandie’s stunts are varied, covering a range designed to inspire disgust and alarm in the audience. Some start nice and peaceful before Brandie begins the scare tactics, while others are unapologetically frightening from the start. These are fantastic from a performance perspective. Brandie is reassuring enough at the start of each trick that the audience becomes reasonably certain that he is in no life threatening danger, only to perform stunts dangerous enough that they doubt their former certainty.

Live theater can be unpredictable, especially live theater that requires audience participation, and Brandie encountered such an unpredictability this evening when one of his participants was unwilling to come up on stage. Brandie dealt with this well, performing the effect in a way that allowed this participant to remain in her seat. Such respect for his audience’s boundaries was especially reassuring in this danger-driven show.

Brandie is great at what he does in Bizarre, and this type of scary magic surely has its niche in the magical community. For those that enjoy the bizarre, even at its most disgusting or frightening, Brandie’s Bizarre is the place to be.

 

More information on Michael Brandie and his performance dates can be found here

THE GRUMPY MAGICIANS: NEVER GIVE A SUCKER AN EVEN BREAK

Two charming gentlemen, Paul Novak and Johnny B Good, perform a delightful show as The Grumpy Magicians for the first week of the Fringe. In Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, The Grumpy Magicians are upfront about their goal, to con their audience, who, they determine early on, are all suckers. They do, at the very least, successfully steal a place in their audience members’ hearts.

The Grumpy Magicians rely on classic magic tricks to fool the audience. They even produce a rabbit in a hat—luckily a toy rabbit, to avoid any implications of animal abuse. A highlight includes a blender, a less common prop at magic shows. Some of their tricks do lack deftness, and there are moments when the audience sees a prop before they should, or the face of a card a little bit too early. However, the majority of the tricks are done with suitable skill to conceal the deception.

To be fair, any inconsistencies in The Grumpy Magicians’ magic hardly matters, as their appeal is in their charm and rapport, both with each other and with their audience. Despite the grumpiness, they have a solid partnership. They work smoothly together and appear dependably supportive of each other. This is especially nice to see in a magic show, as magicians often perform solo and can look very lonely up on stage by themselves.

Audience participants likewise feel safe in the hands of The Grumpy Magicians. The Magicians take advantage of their age to take a grandfatherly attitude toward their participants, which they manage to do without straying into being too patronizing.

While The Grumpy Magicians might not be the most expert magicians at the Fringe, their act is lovely. They adapt well to performing appropriately for any children in the audience, making them a great family option. The Grumpy Magicians make for a solidly entertaining hour as both magicians and entertainers in general.

 

More information on The Grumpy Magicians and their performance dates can be found here

ADAM PATEL: BROWN MAGIC

Adam Patel has chosen the classic theme of his own life story, for his show Brown Magic, and the development of his interest in magic. Patel uses his magic tricks to complement and illustrate the stories that he tells. His anecdotes and jokes do often use stereotypes, but he does not rely on stereotypes to get cheap laughs, rather he uses them in his own original manner. Patel’s magic tricks are likewise well performed and effectively used.

Brown Magic began with Patel offstage, directing audience participants through a first trick using his voice alone. This did run into a slight speed-bump, through no fault of Patel’s own, as the participant chosen to read the denouement of this trick had to run back to her seat to get her reading glasses, but Patel dealt with this well, making sure that the audience was entertained and his participant felt comfortable. Patel’s expert handling of the situation turned a potential blunder into charming introduction, ensuring that by the time he physically stepped on stage the audience was already on his side.

Patel’s main sleight of hand trick is performed alongside his story of trying to impress a childhood crush with magic. This story certainly increases the audience’s sympathy for Patel. His well executed trick brings the mood back up, as he demonstrates both his recovery from childhood disappointment and his increased magical skills as an adult.

Patel’s take on mind reading is interesting and modern, as he bases one of his mind reading demonstrations on Tinder, and, for another, uses an app of his own design. The latter is used especially creatively, although it is definitely for the best that Patel specifies at the start of this segment that he wants an audience participant who doesn’t take himself too seriously. Patel’s final trick is similarly creative, imbuing magical tropes with his own unique flavor.

Brown Magic is solidly entertaining. Patel uses his life story to create his particular take on magic very effectively. While many of his magic tricks are fairly standard, Patel performs them well, and uses them in an interesting manner over the course of the stories that he tells.

 

Adam Patel can be found at Sweet Grassmarket (Venue 18) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 18:40 until through August 12th. 

More information on Adam Patel and his performance dates can be found here

KEVIN QUANTUM: AND FOR MY NEXT TRICK

 

In And For My Next Trick, Kevin Quantum fully embraces the silly side of magic.  The slightest notion of a theme gives the show some structure, while allowing Quantum to perform a wide range of varying tricks.  Quantum takes advantage of this freedom to show off an impressive breadth of versatility for an hour long show.

Early in the show, Quantum performs a well-judged card trick.  Quantum’s audience is just big enough that the people at the back might have had trouble seeing a playing card, but Quantum made sure to use a heavily marked card for the duration of the trick to avoid any such difficulties.  Quantum performs this trick with dexterity and poise, demonstrating his skill in classic sleight of hand.

Quantum gets into more story-based magic as well, with a magical attraction themed segment featuring a mock date with an audience participant.  In such a trick the choice of participant is key, as they have a slightly more involved role than just picking a card, and Quantum chose perfectly.  His participant appeared delighted to have her turn on stage, which made that part of the show even more delightful to watch.  The theme led Quantum into a performance that was at times more comedy-based than magic, but this was no disadvantage as he entertained the audience throughout.

Performing can be unpredictable, and Quantum is adept at handling potentially challenging variables.  Quantum has a good rapport with his audience.  If he teases the participants who he brings on stage he comes across as friendly rather than antagonistic.  Additional disturbances arose on this evening with equipment difficulties and an unusually noisy fan, but Quantum dismissed these with a smile and a joke, and did not allow them to have any detrimental effect on his performance.

Quantum uses And For My Next Trick to bring the audience on a quick journey through the more playful parts of his repertoire.  Quantum seems to be having as much fun on stage as the audience is having watching him, which makes him all the more enjoyable to watch.

 

Kevin Quantum can be found at Gilded Balloon Teviot during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 21:30 from August 9-20, 22-26

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

MAGICFEST GALA: FAST & FURIOUS

☆☆

MagicFest’s gala this year is themed Fast & Furious, and is notable for its scarcity of traditional magic.  The host is the one self-described magician of the ensemble—although, to be fair, he is joined on stage by an illusionist troupe.  This works to the gala’s advantage simply because inviting a wider range of entertainers allows for more options in putting together an interestingly varied show.

Kevin Quantum returns to host the gala.  Perhaps in acknowledgement of his status as the only traditional magician of the evening, Quantum does a fair amount of magic in between the main acts.  His assortments of tricks are a disjointed jaunt through the world of magic that keeps everyone well entertained in the transition times.  He has a considerate rapport with the audience, using a combination of volunteerism and random selection to choose the participants that join him on stage to ensure that as many eager viewers as possible get their chance in front of the crowd.

Like many magicians, Javier Jarquin’s act uses a lot of playing cards.  However Jarquin is not a magician, he is the Card Ninja, so rather than stealthily manipulating his cards he demonstrates methods for throwing them.  Despite his variety of throwing methods, this may get a little bit repetitive for some audience members.  Jarquin’s enthusiasm and audience interaction help him continue to engage them.

Tom Crosbie’s Rubik’s cube themed performance is next on stage.  His Rubik’s cube solves are fast, and his cheerful chatter of stories and facts—nearly entirely about Rubik’s cubes—matches the speed of his hands.  Crosbie creates different solve situations, alternately tossing his cube to the audience to get in mixed up and keeping it in his own hands to show off his quickest solution methods, to get the maximum mileage out of his single cube.

The illusionist company Magus Utopia splits their act, performing the first half directly before the interval and the second half at the very end of the gala.  This is an effective format for them in this particular show, both to increase the suspense of their story and ensure that their numbers and theatrics do not overwhelm the other performers.  Illusionists are a staple of traditional magic, but Magus Utopia’s fantasy aesthetic aligns them with modern trends in popular culture, and the emphasis on the plot of their act gives new life to old magic tropes.

The audience returns from the interval to MC Hammersmith, a freestyle rapper comedian.  Such a large proportion of his spoken comedy relies on stereotypes that this does make his act occasionally feel outdated, despite his youthful appearance.  However, his freestyle rapping is exciting to witness, as he creates connections between random audience suggestions incredibly rapidly while maintaining the rhythm of his rap.  The improvised comedy of his raps is creative and fresh.

The final performer of the gala is James Freedman, a professional pickpocket.  His skilled demonstration of pick pocketing techniques was enhanced by one of his audience participants, whose absolute astonishment at seeing his possessions in Freedman’s hands gave the rest of the audience a glimpse into what it might feel like to have their pockets picked so thoroughly by Freedman’s nimble fingers.  Freedman proves his mental as well as manual dexterity in an impressive identity theft bit that feels fittingly akin to a magic trick.

MagicFest’s Fast & Furious gala includes an admirable assortment of acts over the course of the production, and it draws strength from this variety to build a lively show.  The diversity of the acts ensures that there is something for everyone.

WIZARD WORLD GATHERING

☆☆☆

MagicFest’s Wizard World Gathering has incredible potential as an event.  Harry Potter is obviously hugely popular, and magicians are ideally suited to bring the magic of Harry Potter into the muggle world.  There are certainly elements of the Wizard World Gathering that rise to the occasion.  The décor is incredibly detailed, the food and drink vendors have an admirable commitment to the theme, and framing the magic shows as “lessons” is an excellent way to create Hogwarts magic from stage magic.  However, the magicians themselves do not feel consistently committed to the Harry Potter theme, preventing it from being a cohesive event, and a few issues in the arrangement of the night detract slightly from its success.

The magic shows begin with R Paul Wilson’s “Expert Magic”.  From the start this is an outlier to the claimed theme, lacking in relevance to Harry Potter.  But to his credit, Wilson’s act itself is suitably entertaining; displaying his range of coin tricks and pickpocket-based card tricks.  Wilson may have misjudged the venue when planning one of his final tricks, which features him and several volunteers seated around a table.  Due to the layout of the theatre this is difficult to see, even from the middle of the audience.  The final effect is nevertheless impressive.

Kevin Quantum’s “Levitation Demonstrations” has an appreciably more Harry Potter theme.  Quantum takes a science fiction approach to this fantasy world, framing his show as his quest to discover a scientific means to levitate.  One of his tricks involving audience volunteers is really more of a trust exercise than a proper magic trick, which makes it all the more remarkable that Quantum is able to seamlessly include it in his act.  Quantum’s act feels less like a collection of tricks and more like a coherent theatrical production, with an admirable blend of his own magical style with the theme given to him.

“Time Travel 101” with John Henry Blackwood unfortunately often feels more hindered than helped by its theme.  Blackwood spends an inordinate amount of the middle of his act on a trick involving a toy plunger that is charming enough in and of itself but is only very loosely related to his own time travel concept.  However, he begins and ends with tricks that do genuinely use his theme to enhance the overall effect.  The stickers on the trunk that he uses as a table and the deathly hallows charm on his clothing are a lovely nods to the aesthetic of the evening.

Magic aside, there are a few issues that came up with the Wizard World Gathering itself.  As attendants enter the Assembly Roxy they are handed tickets with a couple of timings of the magic shows, but it is not explained that it is necessary to bring the ticket to that show time to be guaranteed a seat.   Many who were new to MagicFest took these timings as suggestions or reminders, and in the absence of an official explanation it fell to those who had attended previous similar MagicFest events to explain the system.  Also, in spite of the online description of the event as a party, the event really still feels like a series of magic shows.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but not what one is led to expect. There are few other activities in the central hall, and some are unexpectedly shut over an hour before the end of the event.  Additionally the Harry Potter quiz, while fun, could have done with a few more challenging questions.

That being said, the attention to detail in the decoration of the venue is absolutely fantastic.  The central hall is decorated as the Great Hall, and includes an intricately set up photo backdrop.  The common room, where the quiz is held, features a wall papered in book-print, and the bathroom even includes a snake sticker by one of the taps.  These details create a delightful atmosphere that is a highlight of the event.  Creating the right atmosphere is so crucial to events like this one, and for its flaws there are moments when attendees at the Wizard World Gathering feel truly transported to Hogwarts.

THE SECRET GIFT – EXTRA (DRUNK) REVIEW

☆☆☆

Disclaimer: The “real” review of MagicFest’s Christmas show can be found here. But, we had an extra reviewer in Edinburgh keen to see the show, and once upon a time a reviewer joked to our Editor-in-Chief, “hey what if we did drunk reviews for shows as second reviews” and, terrifyingly, our Editor-in-Chief took this joke seriously. Enjoy! 

I went to see the secret gift. A MagicFest production for the Christmas season. Kevin Quantum is the compare and has come on in leaps and bounds since I saw him hosting  MagicFest. Edinburgh is the stage back drop and there are lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and the whole theatre is beautiful to start. Admittedly, as I am drunk reviewing my first thoughts are “Pretty… why am I here? Oh yes, Magic!”.

Kevin made champagne from thin air, then introduced “The Art of Illusion” a Scottish illusion team. Male and female. Steryotypical magic tricks, woman in box disappears; but I have never seen that done before and it is breathtaking. They are an attractive pair, strong and able, and perfectly suited to the stage. The magicians assistant did not shy from the spot light. The one area that could have used a different trick was between sets the male magician pulled a long cord from his mouth, from my perspective all I could think was “TAPEWORM”!” I think there needed to be a break but something different to a tapeworm could be used.The show focused around using sex to distract from what was going on. A clever trick in some respects.

The next act is the hilarious Professor Kelso. He has a Shakespearean excellence about him. His voice, his act, it is all hilarious before the magic starts. He says he is a hypnotist, no! a magician no! a mind reader! No!  Magician! It is a great beginning. He has the costume and the voice and the act. But then he moved to cheap fortune telling. That could have been different. He has so much going for him but I found the reading of the audience dull and unrewarding. Well done, after 20 questions you have the correct answer. He has a lot of talent to be on the stage but needs to move away from fortunes. You are not a grandmother Professor Kelso!

There was an act before the interval from caberet rather than magic but let me tell you! It is magical to me! My mind is blown. The Bubble Poet came on stage with his act, and though I know what is happening, it is amazing! He is a stage artiste! He can make magic happen before your eyes in coloured smoke and dish detergent. Phenomenal.

After the interval Kevin worked his magic with his introduction, then brought on stage a rather interesting Spaniard by name “David Blanco”. By this point I was somewhat intoxicated and found David to play on his race rather more than necessary. He was a slight of hand magician who also performed card tricks. Inticially I thought “typical, playing on suggestion, and playing on accents” but he is very amusing. And very good at what he does. He uses his “foreign-ness” to his advantage.

Professor Kelso is back on stage to perform the “12 days of Magic”. He is so good at the piano it is a shame to see him go to waste filling time like this. It was caberet but not especially special or interesting. The “12 days of Christmas” or whatever is done! Move on. Kelso is an excellent character who deserves lots of time in the sun performing interesting pieces for the mind, not for the child.

Kevin came back and performed a hilarious piece about mind wandering. Where is the ball? Here or here? Used sexual tension as a joke which seemed cheap but followed up with pure quality misdirection. He misdirected you here, so you didn’t notice the misdirection over there. Very well done. Huge amounts of showmanship, and I would like to learn a trick or two from you. Producing lemons! Amazing!

Finally “The Art of Illusion” came back on stage. A winner to begin but now at the end (after a few drinks) it’s clichéd and over done. The beautiful assistant being your distraction, really!? I’d like to see the same show performed with a man. It was well done, steryotypical tricks, which I think modern theatre is lacking. But what modern theatre is also lacking is equality. Wearing leather boots does not equal tiny Santa costume. You are good at being a magician. Don’t diminish it by being a sexist.

Overall a wonderful show. I saw MagicFest and this was a level beyond. Well done, well performed.