author: Hannah S

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

BEN DALI: TRANCE OF A LIFETIME

One thing is clear from the title of Ben Dali’s show, Trance of a Lifetime: his amazing commitment to terrible puns.  He has, in fact, had three years of Fringe hypnotism shows with similarly pun-based titles, which he lists at the start of this show.  All of them are equally fantastic.  The actual content of his show provokes more mixed reactions.

Unlike many hypnotist shows that ease the audience into things with some mind reading, Dali heads straight into the hypnotism.  He also limits his hypnotic participants to volunteers who choose to step on to the stage at the start of the show, rather than attempting to hypnotize the entire audience.  This is a great way to ensure that his participants are fully willing—although arguably even if he had gone for the whole audience approach he would still only get willing participants, as the unwilling would fight the trance state.  It did leave him open to unsuccessfully hypnotized participants playing along for fun, and indeed several such individuals left the stage at various points in the show.

It is perhaps unimportant that several participants played along in the show for a while as Dali’s methods for demonstrating his hypnotic influence are entirely based on getting his participants to put on a spectacle for the remainder of his audience.  This often involves getting them to perform actions that are presumably so embarrassing that they would be unwilling to go through with them if not for the hypnosis.  It does at times, however, almost feel like a caricature of hypnotism at its creepiest and most manipulative.

To his credit, Dali is careful to ensure that his hypnotism is only extended to the consenting adults who have chosen to step on to his stage.  At the reviewed performance, two young girls were mimicking the participants as they entered the trance state.  Dali took the time to check on them and establish that they had definitely not fallen under his sway.

Dali’s comedic hypnotism is a specific style that, if his crowds on a Tuesday evening are anything to go by, is very popular.  He is certainly good at what he does.  It is likely that those who attend his show in the hopes of being hypnotized, or gawking at those who have been, will not be disappointed.

 

Ben Dali can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 22:00 from August 23-26

More information on Ben Dali and his 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

DREAMER BY SAM FITTON

☆☆

The opening animation sets the tone perfectly for Sam Fitton’s Dreamer—good, silly fun, like a perfectly planned magical dream.  While Fitton is a personable performer and Dreamer is notable for its creativity, there is room for improvement in its execution.

If there is a theme to Dreamer, it is Fitton’s wacky magical perception of everyday life.  This is epitomized in his opening sequence, which features Fitton struggling through his morning routine as the implements of his daily life transform into illusions.  His use of real-life props in his tricks integrates them into the vignette.  The tricks are often common, but Fitton has put them together into a charming storyline.

Fitton’s friendly stage presence is felt at every turn.  As is common in magic shows, Dreamer requires audience participation, but in one section Fitton plays with this standard by involving the entire audience, firing props into the crowd and teaching everyone a simple magic trick.  I, for one, was surprised by how amused I was with this, and found myself repeating the trick over and over for my own entertainment for the rest of the day.  It was a lovely reminder of the joyful wonder that Fitton radiates with every movement.

Not every audience member is so lucky, and in another section Fitton pulls someone from the crowd and throws them into his script with no warning.  It is perhaps inarguably true that all members of the audience at a magic show must be prepared to be called upon to assist the magician, but it is equally the duty of the magician to make those called upon feel safe in their temporary spotlight.  Fortunately on that afternoon the participant for this section appeared unfazed.  However, the rest of the audience may have felt justifiably wary of helping Fitton for the rest of the show.

This issue was confined to a single section of Dreamer, but general issues with Fitton’s execution of his tricks were less constrained.  There are moments when the audience catches glimpses of the mechanics behind Fitton’s magic, which is, on occasion, a little bit distracting from the overall performance.

These performance problems aside, Dreamer is delightful.  Its whimsical framework for Fitton’s magic tricks is consistently inventive and engaging.  Fitton is promisingly creative and reliably fun to watch.

 

Sam Fitton can be found at the Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68) during the 2018 Edinburgh Festival Fringe at 15:25 from August 21-25

More information on Sam Fitton 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

#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

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