3 Stars

CHAMPIONS OF MAGIC

☆☆☆

The British have a long history of invading America, in so many different ways. But one of the most unexpected invasions to date (although this is perhaps up for debate) is that of the British magicians. Having spent several years touring throughout the UK, the Champions of Magic have arrived on US soil in an attempt to internationally stun and amaze and triumph, as any good champion should- and as these five magicians have.

Although a team effort, the strength of the Champions is not in any form of group chemistry or magic genre alignment- the Champions almost never share the stage (with the exception of double act Young & Strange) and they perform very distinct styles of trickery. No, instead, their power is instead in representing all the relationships an audience member can have with magic.

‘Magic as wonder’ is exemplified by Edward Hilsum, a remarkable magician with terrifyingly adept fingers. In his first act totally mute, and even after that quite reserved in patter, Hilsum still manages to create the kind magic that makes his audience fall similarly silent in enchanted awe as objects appear and disappear effortlessly in front of their eyes.

For Fay Presto, the relationship inspired is perhaps more ‘magic as nostalgia’ or even ‘magic as a cultural institution.’ The tricks are classic and the humor is dry, and a beat too sharp for the audience- although we all get the joke, albeit a few seconds too late, but if you can keep up Presto leaves you as amused as impressed with her magical manipulations.

The mind reader of the Champions, naturally, is responsible for ‘magic as a challenge’, perhaps the most engaging relationship of them all. There’s always something a little bit combative between magicians and the audience- the man or woman on stage is there to trick us, after all, and everyone wants to be astute enough to catch them in the act. But nothing is more tricky than when they can even see into your mind- as Alex McAller seems to do. Bouncing from knowing the cards you have to the item you’ll pick to the names and words safely stored only in your memory, McAleer’s effusive energy makes him impossibly charming despite the frustration he inspires by being far too clever. If McAleer wasn’t on the top of his game at the Waukegan, IL show, then he has far too much game for one man.

Finally, the most important relationship, ‘magic as the joke’, is supplied by Richard Young and Sam Strange. While most the Champions are funny in their own ways, Young & Strange take the humor of the art to a whole new level. Filled with a laddish arrogance that the audience is delighted by despite themselves, this duo purposefully makes their illusions utterly ridiculous but in the best possible way, throwing grand illusions at the audience while simultaneously refusing to take themselves even a tiny bit seriously.

The Champions of Magic, despite gamely sharing this triumphant title, are more accurately four magic shows in one. Although this does create a little stylistic whiplash, we are ultimately fortunate for it, for there’s something for everyone and anyone to appreciate in this artful, magical experience.

 

More information on Champions of Magic and their performance dates can be found here

ELLIOT BIBBY: MAGIC MOMENTS

☆☆☆

Elliot Bibby performs his limited edition “Magic Moments” show just a few times over the course of the Fringe, making it quite the hot commodity of Fringe magical performances. This fun and fast paced show incorporates a range of both mind reading and sleight of hand illusions, making for an overall enjoyable evening.

“Magic Moments” is a particularly flashily theatrical experience, which sets it apart from many of the more subtle Fringe magic shows. It is easy to see that he took inspiration from Las Vegas, where he confides having spent time performing. Bibby’s opening mind reading trick is an amusing start to the show. He add the nice touch of calling upon several audience volunteers to come to the stage as a group relatively early on in the show, making their role in the performance less intimidating to take part in. The success of trick in particular is dependent on the volunteers’ choices, but Bibby is adept at using what is given to him to keep his audience entertained.

Bibby continues through a varied selection of card tricks. He frequently asks audience members to sign a card of their choosing, as insurance that he is not using any multi-deck trickery to make his magic tricks easier—a fairly common practice that Bibby seems especially fond of. The variety and fast pace of Bibby’s card tricks make this an especially lively segment of the show. One segment that perhaps goes on for slightly too long involves a recorded narration of the trick that Bibby attempts. As the entire joke of this section seems to involve poking fun at Australian accents, it feels increasingly slightly uncomfortable as it continues to linger on. However, gentle cultural mockery aside, Bibby’s humor is lighthearted enough to consistently resonate with the audience, and keeps every moment as magical as promised. Bibby ends the show with a final, excitingly performed card trick to a dramatic sound track, a fittingly flamboyant conclusion to his show. 

“Magic Moments” is a worthwhile show to experience, marked by the pleasantly flashy performance style that Bibby brings to the Fringe. His magic tricks are expertly and entertainingly performed, delighting all his audiences. 

 

More information on Elliot Bibby and his performance dates can be found here

DAVID NARAYAN: THE PSYCHIC PROJECT

☆☆☆

At heart, David Narayan’s “The Psychic Project” is an incredibly fun history lesson.  Narayan illuminates his audience on some of the weirder aspects of Cold War history in this uniquely formatted magic show.

Narayan guides the audience through several basic magic tricks that have their roots in the Cold War era. Magic fans may recognize the series of five cards with different shapes, or have seen some variation of the dangerous bag trick in other shows. Some might have even heard brief explanations of these props from other magicians. For most magicians, however, historical explanation is just used as a few seconds to ground their take on the trick in magical history. For Narayan, on the other hand, the magical past is the central point of his show. The audience gets to hear much more in-depth explanations of the history behind the magic, and watch Narayan re-create the original versions of each trick with audience volunteers.

As this act combines both magic and history, it is best appreciated by those who enjoy both of those things. The historical narrative places the series of tricks in context, and the addition of the illusions in turn brings that historical narrative to life. It understandably appeared reasonably popular with parents and children on the day of the debut performance, as it is both an entertaining and educational show. The magic is interspersed with both Narayan’s historical lectures and a slideshow presentation on the relevant Cold War scientists, complete with audio of pertinent facts and quotes.

In a fitting tribute to history, the final couple of illusions focus on dangerous magic. The scientists who developed the techniques discussed were doing so to ultimately create better methods of hurting their enemies, after all. This does make the show more specifically geared toward those who prefer to watch magic for the thrill rather than for the wonder, but all benefit from the stark look at wartime magic. These final elements do contain an unexpectedly playful moment, however, blessedly lightening the mood. 

Narayan’s “The Psychic Project” is a fascinating combination of magic and history. Fans of both, but especially of magical history, are sure to find this show exceptionally engaging.

 

More information on David Narayan and his performance dates can be found here

AARON CALVERT: AWAKEN

☆☆☆

A popular mind reading magician, Aaron Calvert starts his “Awaken” show by correctly deducing what several members of his audience are thinking, as all good mentalists should. However, the main part and highlight of his performance is his hypnosis. This seems like the reason why he draws such a huge crowd at midday, as massive queues flock to his sizable venue, everyone fascinated and eager to be hypnotized.

Calvert begins his hypnosis segment with a bi-tonal sound that, combined with his verbal prompting, is designed to lull the susceptible members of his audience into a state of hypnosis. The benefits of this segment are not entirely lost on those of us who are less susceptible. The tone used is quite relaxing, and Calvert’s voice is pleasant and calming.

The success of this segment is, of course, dependent on Calvert finding enough suitable audience members to hypnotize. Calvert leads them on to the stage and puts them through a series of tasks to demonstrate that they are indeed under his sway. None of these tasks are difficult or embarrassing, and this portion of the act comes off more as a pseudo-scientific experiment to demonstrate Calvert’s abilities rather than a spectacle to entertain the audience at the expense of the participants—a welcome approach.

Calvert also makes an effort to include a flashier bit of hypnosis in his show. He guides one of his hypnotized subjects to pop a balloon through the power of negative thought. Here he again exhibits his care for his audience, making sure to calm his participant from this state of heightened negativity before restoring her mind to her own control.

The finale of the show, once all of the hypnotized individuals have been released from that condition, is designed to showcase Calvert’s ability to predict the group decisions of his entire audience, regardless of each individual’s susceptibility to hypnosis. However, it feels a bit rushed—perhaps, on this day, the other sections of the show took longer than expected—and the audience is left a bit confused as to whether Calvert actually achieved his goal or just shuffled things around a bit to make it look like they were in the right place.

“Awaken” is certainly an enjoyable show for fans of hypnosis. Any imperfections in Calvert’s mentalism are quickly forgotten, for Calvert is a talented performer whose showmanship makes him fun to watch on stage. In any case, an audience coming for hypnotic feats will leave well satisfied with their experience.

 

More information on Aaron Calvert and his performance dates can be found here

AVA BEAUX: THE MYSTERIOUS TALES OF POE

☆☆☆

Ava Beaux’s Edgar Allan Poe-themed magic show ‘The Mysterious Tales of Poe’ can be found in a cozy room underneath The Street bar. Relatively new to performing, Beaux opens her show a little nervous at first, but quickly became more confident as she gets further along, and delivers a spellbinding performance.

Rather than jumping straight in to a succession of magic tricks, Beaux skillfully ties her show together through her re-telling of Poe’s short stories. Her act is not, in practice, strictly a magic show, as her spoken word performance shares an equal role. This is certainly to our benefit, as Beaux is a captivating storyteller. Her illusions and storytelling complement each other perfectly to bring Poe’s tales to life.

Beaux also uses sound and practical effects to enhance her act, her use of sound being particularly effective. The knocks of her tell-tale heart initially sound almost like background noise from the bar above, and gradually become more insistent and distinct as Beaux reaches the concluding lines of the story. This particular re-telling is an impressive highlight of her show.

While Beaux often uses her magic abilities to great effect, this aspect of her performance occasionally feels a little bit clumsier. Her hands at times stray a little too close to her suspiciously puffy sleeves, and her transitions after her tricks sometimes feel a bit hasty and awkward. Her final magic trick, as well, feels rushed, and, on the occasion of this review, did not land as solidly as she might have hoped. But while these are issues, given the multi-faceted nature of Beaux’s act they are fairly minor in context. Her magic tricks will probably quickly improve as she gains more experience, perhaps even over the course of this year’s Fringe.

The Mysterious Tales of Poe is well worth watching for the overall effect of Beaux’s performance. She excels at creating atmosphere—the audience truly feels transported in turn to a ship on a stormy ocean or a mysterious old mansion in the middle of the countryside. This show is an inventive and exciting addition to the Fringe magic scene. While her magic surely will continue to improve, Beaux’s storytelling is so fascinating that her audience can hardly notice any flaws.

 

More information on Ava Beaux and her performance dates can be found here

CASPAR THOMAS: MORE MAGIC AND MENTALISM

☆☆☆

Caspar Thomas’s “More Magic and Mentalism” act does not rely on the padding of a theme or series of stories. It is, instead, a solid hour of magic tricks linked only by Thomas’s cheerful and free flowing banter.

Thomas uses this format to showcase his variety of magical skills. This show includes everything—card tricks, objects vanishing into thin air only to be summoned back in to existence, magically accurate deductive reasoning, and the classic magic rings. While accidents do happen, and audience members in the front two rows might notice the glitter and clink of supposedly “vanished” coins a split second before they are scheduled to re-appear, these tricks are, on the whole, performed with precision and skill.

This skill is what sets Thomas’s act apart, and makes his show worthwhile. The large crowd that gathered outside the venue for Thomas’s Friday evening performance was evidence that his expertise is notable and appreciated. Additionally, his act is handy for newcomers to magic, as it takes them through a quick introduction to the varieties of magic that are common amongst modern magicians.

One particularly commendable feature of Thomas’s act is that he makes a point of requesting volunteers before randomly choosing them from the audience. It is common knowledge that all attendants of magic shows are fair game to be chosen by the magician and paraded about the stage, which can be very intimidating. Magicians like Thomas make their acts much more approachable.

A negative feature of note is the poorly situated venue. Loud conversation and amateur singing could be heard at several points throughout the performance. Thomas successfully played it off in front of the audience, which is why these disruptions did not spoil the show, but it would surely be even better if he could reach an understanding with the others in the venue to ensure that he commands the full attention of his audience.

Thomas’s “More Magic” show is unpretentiously enjoyable magic. This act goes for breadth over depth without sacrificing quality or amusement, making for a good show.

 

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

COLIN CLOUD: DARE

☆☆☆

The long, winding queue full of people waiting to see Colin Cloud’s “Dare” this evening attests to his undeniable renown. It can be so easy, as an ordinary audience member, to dismiss mind reading magic as an elaborate network of actors in league with the magician, or as normal people playing along with the magician out of compassion and pity. But despite those uncertainties, Cloud’s mind reading act clearly resonates with his substantial fan base, and it is easy to understand why.

Cloud frequently references his fascination with cults, and this becomes a theme throughout his performance, although without overwhelming his illusions. Whether it’s instructing the entire audience to wear masks of his own face or enjoying his ability to get the audience to clap on command, Cloud’s playful acknowledgement of his own charisma sets a lighthearted tone for the evening.

This is perhaps what gives Cloud’s show its broad appeal. While most of the crowd on a Saturday evening appeared to be adults, it was easy to imagine a higher percentage of families with young children attending on summer weekday evenings. Cloud is fascinating enough to hold adults’ attention, and his tricks are entertaining enough to engage with younger audiences.

Magicians who perform mind reading tricks generally employ measures to convince the audience of their integrity. Cloud’s most interesting procedure to this effect is to take advantage of the ubiquity of social media. Early on in the show, Cloud requests that everyone post an embarrassing secret or shameful desire to social media using the hashtag #colinclouddare. He later guesses individuals’ secrets, and invites the audience to check his accuracy by reading through that hashtag. This clever blend of magic and social media marketing proves to be a delightful way of involving the audience in the act.

Colin Cloud delivers classic mind reading magic in a show for all the ages, and sets himself apart by incorporating social media in fun and interesting ways. Cloud then links this back in to his theme of cults to neatly bind his act together. The net effect is a solidly enjoyable evening of magical entertainment. Cloud describes himself as a real-life Sherlock Holmes, and his Fringe show is definitive evidence in favour of that claim—with the caveat that, unlike a detective, a magician never reveals his secrets.

 

More information on Colin Cloud and his performance dates can be found here