4 Stars

HOME

Geoff Sobelle’s Home defies categorization—it makes such excellent use of a variety of performance art genres and influences to make its point. Most interesting, and perhaps most relevant to this review site, is the evident magical influences. Many of the most obviously magical effects are used to add charming moments of humor, and even beyond these it makes original use of magic tropes. Any plot to Home is more of a suggestion or theme than a storyline, as its purpose does not seem to be to tell a traditional story, but to convey a feeling of Home-ness to the audience.

The motif of disappearing and reappearing dominates the first section of Home. This appears as a sort of larger scale of a magician’s sleight of hand. Instead of playing cards disappearing, reappearing, or suddenly changing identity, it is the human actors doing those things. This illustrates a central message of Home, that while a house might stand for generations, the people who would call it a home are in comparison constantly changing.

A second main segment of Home is instead monopolized by that classic component of magic shows, random audience member participation. The audience members who are brought up on stage are well taken care of. The nature of the performance allows the actors to give the participants instructions without distracting the rest of the audience from the show. By the end of this scene there are so many members of the audience up on stage, and the participation has extended so far into the seated masses, that it is as if Sobelle has welcomed the entire audience into his house party.

It is worth mentioning the primary set piece used in the production. Home is a multifaceted piece of performance art, and a key aspect of that is the house that the majority of the action is set within. It is an incredibly elegant and precise construction. The house set is so perfectly suited for the choreography of the performance, it is clearly a very well thought through design.

If the goal of Home is to convey a sense of Home-ness to the audience, it has succeeded in this impeccably. Its whimsical reflections on the nature of what makes a house a home are always captivating and, by the end, ultimately heartwarming.

 

Home can be found at King’s Theatre during the 2018 Edinburgh International Festival from August 25-26

GRIFFIN AND JONES: TRICKORICE ALLSORTS

Trickorice Allsorts is a delightfully punny show title, which is appropriate as magicians Griffin and Jones are like the human embodiments of a pun.  Their wacky slapdash style is perfectly coordinated and precisely executed.  The chaos that is ever present throughout the show may appear, at times, to be genuinely beyond their control, but by the end of the performance the audience is convinced that Griffin and Jones have always been in command of everything that happens on their stage.

The magic tricks that Griffin and Jones perform are not necessarily original in their fundamental structure, but the trappings that they dress them in express their characteristic style at every opportunity.  From the clown-like opening silent sequence featuring a newspaper to their tombola-themed memento recovery trick, their performance is consistently unpredictable in its silliness.  The magic itself is performed accurately as well, and many reveals provoke involuntary exclamations of astonishment from the audience.  The triumph of their tricks is perhaps even more impressive as it is presented against a background of apparent pandemonium.

Griffin and Jones can only pull off this wacky style so well as it is paired with such precisely executed tricks, but these factors are brought together so successfully because of their energy and chemistry.  The show that was reviewed ended up having a relatively small audience, but this had no apparent impact on the larger than life comedy that Griffin and Jones brought to the performance.  They bring this energy to their interactions with their audience participants as well.  If they do tease on occasion, it is gentle enough that it only serves to make their participants feel welcome in temporarily joining them on stage. It is also so lovely to watch Griffin and Jones bolster and bounce off of each other with such genuine support.  The audience gets the impression that that real trust between the two is the true foundation for their success on stage.

Griffin and Jones are fantastically ridiculous performers as well as skilled magicians.  Trickorice Allsorts is, as suggested both by the pun and by Griffin and Jones themselves, a bit of a mixed bag of random magic tricks.  However, in quality, style, and sheer concentrated silliness, Trickorice Allsorts is consistently remarkable.

 

Griffin and Jones can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:50 from August 23-26

More information on Griffin and Jones and their performance dates can be found here

CHARLIE CAPER – ARTIFICE INTELLIGENCE

Charlie Caper calls himself a magician, but Artifice Intelligence is less of a magic show and more an excuse for Caper to demonstrate a variety of robots and other machines that he has clearly spent a lot of time building.  It is easy to see why, as they are incredible.  Artifice Intelligence loses nothing from this focus, as Caper creates a compelling storyline out of his creations.

The magic that Caper does perform often makes use of the robots. It does, at times, almost become a commentary on that stale magical trope of the beautiful assistant, and her relationship with the magician who she assists.  The robots steal the show.  A particular highlight is the butter robot, which conveys an astonishing breadth of emotion for what appears to be one of the more simple of Caper’s machines.

When Caper attempts more traditional magic tricks they do at times go awry.  Cards and bottles might appear out of turn, and, at the performance reviewed, cups of liquid that were being used as props spilled all over the floor and Caper’s clothing.  This is written in an ambiguous fashion because Caper performed through these potential mishaps so impeccably that it is difficult to know whether they were genuine mistakes or calculated aspects of his performance, designed to appear to go wrong for effect.  If they were honest mistakes it is perhaps even more impressive that Caper managed to play them off so efficiently.

The plot that Caper weaves through Artifice Intelligence is present enough to create dramatic tension, but not so prioritized that it dominates the show.  Its foreshadowing and ultimately darkly satisfying conclusion bind the show together.  It is charming that after the story has run its course, Caper takes advantage of his stage to deliver a message of hope about the future of technology in society.  This does not come across as part of his act, but as genuine social commentary from a man who has evidently spent a large portion of his life fascinated by machines.

Artifice Intelligence blurs the boundary of what can be decidedly defined as magic.  It also defies age boundaries, as it is both child friendly and engaging for all age ranges.  What Caper has done is use both the magic of magicians and the “magic” of technology to build an unambiguously exceptional show.

 

Charlie Caper can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 16:05 from August 21, 23-26

More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here

I CAN READ YOUR MIND

Tomas McCabe has helpfully gone down the descriptive route in naming his Fringe show.  As his audiences descend into his basement venue, they definitely all know what to expect from McCabe in I Can Read Your Mind.  The large venue fills close to capacity, but McCabe’s warm and friendly stage presence draws in even those seated at the very back.

McCabe opens his show with a demonstration of his mind reading abilities, perfectly predicting the choices of his chosen audience member.  This allows him to quickly transition into a more practical application of mind reading, how to detect liars.  McCabe frames this as a lesson for the audience, pointing out what he is looking for as he detects successive participants’ attempted deceptions.  This lesson even comes with a test, as McCabe takes an audience poll to discover the final liar, adding a fun level of mass interaction to the show.

Another segment of the show features hypnotism, which McCabe introduces by asking all audience members who were open to being hypnotized to stand up so that he can do his best to put them in a trance.  It is comforting that he is open with his intentions and gives his audience the chance to abstain from this section, as surprise hypnotism can be alarming.  McCabe is respectful of the audience members who he does successfully hypnotize, including the one who he chooses to join him on stage to exhibit the depth of her trance.  However, McCabe’s hypnotic demonstrations are really just more mind reading.  This is not necessarily a criticism of his show, he is upfront about his specialty in its name, but it does make the hypnotism itself seem unnecessary.

I Can Read Your Mind is performed in a sizable, echoing venue, so at the performance reviewed, the audience was understandably noticeably concerned when McCabe’s microphone started cutting in and out.  McCabe dealt with this incredibly effectively, making jokes about the technical issues and ensuring that the entire audience could still hear what he was saying.  Luckily for the audience, McCabe was able to work through this complication and, when necessary, project his voice all the way to the back of the room.

I Can Read Your Mind is a worthy mind reading show, and is deservedly popular, as it manages to fill such a large venue.  McCabe’s lovely enthusiasm for getting the audience involved in every step of his mentalist tricks charms his audience and makes for an excellent and entertaining event.

 

I Can Read Your Mind can be found at Liquid Room Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 21:05 from August 20-26

More information on Tomas McCabe and his performance dates can be found here

BEN HART: THE NUTSHELL

☆☆

The room already radiates an air of enigma as you walk in, and this is just your basic Fringe venue. What is it about Ben Hart that infuses mysteriousness into any room in which he walks?  That question may never be answered, and maybe that’s for the best. What can be known, however, is that Ben Hart’s The Nutshell is an elegant, stylistic experience in truly beautiful magic.

The Nutshell feels, in a nutshell (sorry), like a desperate and intense attempt of a magician at piercing the true nature of his art and its’ limits. A journey in magical madness, even, but one so artfully explored that it pulls every onlooker in, captivated from start to finish. From changing the course of fate to nature to murder, Hart somehow connects an array of topics into a enthralling rhythm.

Hart is an understated performer, gentle in word and movement, which makes his magic feel all the more astonishing when it happens- you’ve been lulled into a pleasant reverie by his stories when you’re caught off guard by the reveal of the illusion he’s slipped past you. Hart is masterful at maintaining a sense of delicious tension, never letting the mood break even when he has to instruct audience volunteers. He weaves his way through the slipperiest of sleight of hand, and appears as watchful of his audience as we are of him, a small smirk as if wondering how far he can trick us into suspending our disbelief.

Ben Hart is an exceptionally skillful magician and a bewitching performer. You won’t leave The Nutshell completely understanding what you just saw- or even what you were meant to see- but you won’t be able to stop wondering about it.

 

Ben Hart can be found at Gilded Balloon Teviot during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 20:15 from August 18-27

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

ELLIOT BIBBY: MCMAGIC MOMENTS

☆☆

According to Elliot Bibby, his is the only Scottish-themed magic show at the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe. This isn’t something that would necessarily be obvious, but once you think about it, you realize it’s true. It seems a little wrong that this fantastic festival that absolutely explodes across Edinburgh for a full month every year would lack representation of their hosts in a category as significant as magic, but that’s exactly what’s happened. That being said, Bibby certainly does his homeland proud in this snappy and sweet show.

The Scottish theme is ever present but not invasive, making an appearance with a Saltire as the focal point of the sparse stage decor, Scottish music, and in Bibby’s stories of his grandmother in Skye. These stories provide Bibby’s foundation for his show, and work well to connect each element of his magic into a compelling experience. Winding effortlessly between different style of tricks, from working with cards to mentalism and beyond, Bibby proves that his enormous skill at sleight of hand is only matched by his charm. Bibby also succeeds in rolling with the unexpected. He keeps his cool and deals admirably with his occasional tech problems and confused volunteers.

Bibby’s greatest strength, even considering his fast-paced and impeccably performed magic, is his ability to engage his audience. He is genuinely funny in an unpackaged way, for although he certainly has mastered his practiced patter, he also has a open and cheerful affect that makes everyone happy to be there and comes across friendly and sincere. Bibby has perfected the balance of the aloof mystery that so befits a magician and heartfelt authenticity.

To say Elliot Bibby’s McMagic Moments is the best Scottish-themed magic show at the Edinburgh Fringe might be a little too cheeky. But just because it is the only one doesn’t mean it isn’t still worth a visit, not just for the novelty, but because it’s a fun and exciting show.

 

Elliot Bibby can be found at the Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 16:30 from August 17-19, 21-26

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

#DAVE: LUXURY MAGIC SHOW

The premise of Dave Alnwick’s Luxury is that he usually performs up on a stage, far from the audience, so here he wants to create a close-up, more luxurious magic show. His interpretation of this theme is characteristic of his especially mischievous magical style, and is used as an effective motif throughout the course of the show.

Aside from this motif, Alnwick has free range to perform a wide range of magic tricks, and he takes full advantage of this. Some of the best moments of the show are when the magical aspects of the performance take the audience by surprise, as much as they can do at a magic show. Alnwick pauses in the middle of setting up a mind reading trick to show off his sleight of hand skills with a pen, and frames another trick as a clever bit of origami that soon turns into proper magic.

Alnwick’s magic tricks are incredible, but even so it is his humor and larger-than-life personality that set him apart as a performer. A true comedy magician, Alnwick’s frequent jokes and quick wit keep his audience in near constant laughter. He takes the time for an extended verbal set-up for a magic trick without losing any attention from the audience.

This combination of excellence in magic and comedy has made Alnwick one of the more popular Fringe magicians, and he deals well with packing out his venue. Alnwick takes the time to do a few of his physically smaller effects twice, both at the front of the room and halfway to the back, to ensure that everyone gets a good view. He also makes sure to include the entire audience when picking participants for his tricks rather than just focusing on those in the front half of the seats. In spite of the playful interpretation of his Luxury motif, it is clear that Alnwick cares about his entire audience, and he makes the effort to ensure that everyone who has come out for his show has a magical experience.

Typically of Alnwick’s shows, Luxury is well worth the time for those who enjoy both comedy and magic. It may be necessary to arrive early to get a seat, but after watching the show the audience will understand why Alnwick is so popular.

 

Dave Alnwick can be found at Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 13:40 from August 15-26

More information on Dave Alnwick and his performance dates can be found here