Street Magic

CHRIS COOK: CONCEALED

Chris Cook’s “Concealed” show, as per the title, is deliberately set in a cozy venue off the beaten Fringe path. Combined with the show’s low-key publicity, it sets an intimate tone for this afternoon act. Cook maintains this intentionally cultivated relaxed vibe throughout his series of street magic style tricks.

One of the reasons for this intimate show, Cook explains, is that several of his illusions are too physically small to be appreciated by the full audience in a large scale venue. Coin bending, one of the first tricks that he performs, is an obviously apt example of this. Audience members should perhaps be warned that when they lend Cook a coin they will not receive it back in working condition, but they do get a fun magical souvenir out of it, and Cook is kind enough to not use any volunteered pound coins for this particular effect. 

The small venue and audience size also allow Cook to perform an extended selection of card tricks. Exciting examples of these involve Cook producing a chocolate bar out of a brief flash of fire, and causing a deck of cards to disappear from within an audience member’s clasped hands. Cook ends with classic street magic sleight of hand, involving three cups and balls. Here his personal additions to the usual standards, and his use of the motifs of that trick to recall earlier moments in this show, make for an exciting finale.

“Concealed” is an ideal show to highlight the neatness and elegance of Cook’s magic style, some of which may get lost toward the back of a larger venue. It also allows Cook to engage more with his audience, as he performs magic surrounded by his viewers instead of up above them on a stage.

The choices that Cook makes in his different shows display his versatility as a magician, as they each have very different atmospheres and feature distinct aspects of Cook’s magical skills. For Fringe goers who are only able to see one of Cook’s shows (or perhaps even only one magic show) “Control” is the one to go to. However, for those with an extra hour to spend in Cook’s delightful company, “Concealed” is an engaging and entertaining option.

TODD VARIOUS

If you startle easy (as I do) the crack of a whip on a crowded street can be a terrifying sound. However, in the case I am describing, it indicated something awesome was to come.

Street performance is really cool inherently, and to do successfully requires crazy impressive showmanship skills.  If someone comes to a stage show, they’ve already spent their money on a ticket, and are thus likely to stick it through regardless. But street performers have to make the audience committed. Todd Various was one of the best street performers I have seen in this regard. Mr Various, with his cowboy persona and vicious looking whips was genuinely funny in a relaxed way that kept the crowd both entertained and at ease throughout the show.

The insane thing is, Mr Various doesn’t do a massive amount of tricks in that time. He actually only does a couple. But due to his entertaining chatter and undeniably likable personality, it seems like a lot more happens.

The tricks that are performed are pretty impressive to see, but the truly great quality was his talent as an entertainer. Mr Various could make jokes at peoples’ expense without being nasty about it, convince dubious tourists to play along with his show, and keep an audience enthralled on a chilly day in Edinburgh for nearly an hour- all without guarantee that they will give him money for his performance. But they damn well should (and I was happy to see did) because this funny, startling, captivating show was absolutely fantastic.

If this was a stage show I would say here where it is playing and at what time but ??? uh Royal Mile, Edinburgh, in the afternoon? Look for the guy wearing a cowboy hat and just stick around until he does something interesting?

+ I realize at no point in this review did I explain the purpose of the whip I mentioned in the beginning. Good. Be curious.

++ I accidentally saw this show twice (there is v little to do on Sundays in Edinburgh. I am not actually a stalker) so this review basically covers both performances at the same time.