#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

CHRIS COOK: CONCEALED

Chris Cook is quite probably the hardest working magician at the Edinburgh Fringe. A consummate professional who holds his audience in his thrall during his stage show, in Concealed, Cook also proves that he has the personability necessary for a fantastic close-up performance.

Concealed’s venue is a tiny room in the basement of the Street bar. The scent of weed wafts gently down from above, and the decor includes disco balls, a cherub, ducks, and twee wallpaper. And in the middle of all this, Cook practically vibrates as he bounces endearingly from taking music requests, gulping down an espresso martini, and bantering with his audience with charming earnestness as he tries to fit everyone into the room.  The place is tiny but the show well attended- knowledge of Cook’s skill has spread by word of mouth and everyone is eager to see for themselves.

Cook performs the traditional, but he performs the traditional well. Even if you’re familiar with magic and you’ve seen the tricks he does before- and surely you have, as he does a rendition of the oldest trick in the world- nothing ever feels even remotely stale. He breathes exuberant almost to the point of manic energy into this intimate performance. Close up magic is a really fast way to separate the truly talented magicians from the deceptively clever showmen and Cook is, actually, both. Every trick is precise, and if it weren’t, we would never have been given the opportunity to realize. Every joke hits, and if it hadn’t, it would have been transformed into one that did. Cook is as quick on his feet as he is with his hands, and even though watching him work makes one exhausted for him, it’s also oddly exhilarating.

Concealed is a performance intentionally under-advertised, because at heart it’s just a guy, keen about magic, sharing it with a small and cheerful crowd. There’s no overarching theme, there’s no moral to no story, it’s a sparse show content in in its own purity, and a purely good show.

 

Chris Cook can be found at The Street (Venue 239) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:45 from August 15-25. 

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.

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.

KEVIN QUANTUM: VANISHING POINT

Kevin Quantum studied physics before he became a magician, and in Vanishing Point he explores the magical niche that he has created by combining his passion for both subjects. The stage is physically dominated by an enormous harmonic pendulum of his own creation that both starts and ends the show. Watching this pendulum in motion at the start of the show is a lovely meditative highlight. In between showing off his pendulum, Quantum performs his array of magic tricks with the theme of making things vanish.

One of Quantum’s primary sub-themes is the Bermuda triangle, famous for making ships, planes, and people mysteriously disappear. Quantum spends a fair amount of time setting up this theme, telling the audience about some of the better known anecdotes and even playing an audio clip from a plane right before it went missing in the triangle. His method of incorporating the theme into his magic tricks is appropriately cheeky for a magic show.

Loss of privacy and the increasing power of technology over humanity, another one of Quantum’s sub-themes, is much more timely, and potentially much more interesting. This time his cheeky nod to theme in the subsequent magic tricks is more of a build up to the big finish—it may feel underwhelming at first, but by the end of the show it proves fittingly impactful. Quantum circles back to his gigantic gadget, using the meditative qualities of his harmonic pendulum to make his point about the importance of living in the moment.

The foundation of Vanishing Point is in hybrids, as Quantum describes himself as a hybrid scientist-magician, and incorporates both magic tricks and scientific demonstrations into this show. Quantum takes this a step further in blending the tone of the show. It is both fun and lighthearted in turns and a bit more serious in others, but does not fully commit to either approach. The lighthearted bits at the beginning still have the dark undertones of death from the Bermuda triangle theme, and the delivery of the sincere message at the end still feels more like a stunt than a moral. This is not detrimental to the overall effect of the show, and feels on brand for Quantum, who has built his magical persona on hybridization.

Vanishing Point is creatively themed and well put together, and well performed in Quantum’s distinctive style. The creative emphasis is decidedly on the theme and non-magical props rather than the tricks themselves, but given the multi-faceted nature of the show this is not too noticeable. Vanishing Point is well worth a visit for those looking for see magic tricks presented in an inventively scientific format.

 

Kevin Quantum can be found at Underbelly Bristo Square during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 18:45 from August 12-20, 22-26

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. 

COLIN CLOUD: PSYCHO(LOGICAL)

Colin Cloud begins Psycho(logical) by saying that as, in this show, he will be discussing us, the audience, it is really our own fault if we do not like it.  This sets the tone perfectly—Cloud maintains that ominous and facetious balance steadily for the duration of the show.  Cloud consistently astounds his audience with his mind reading tricks, and uses both classical and unusual techniques for scary magic to great effect.

The first half of Psycho(logical) is more expected magical fare.  The audience files in to find Cloud already on stage, taking notes, but his condition quickly evolves into an escape artist themed situation.  Cloud’s calm demeanor throughout his change in situation could be interpreted two ways, either that he is confident in his control over his show, or that his tranquility when facing apparent death does indicate that he is, as the title of is show suggests, a psychopath.

Midway through the show Cloud switches gears, framing the majority of his second half as a séance-style attempt to communicate with the dead.  This is, he explains, a bit of a tribute to the creator of his beloved Sherlock Holmes, Arthur Conan Doyle, who was a prominent spiritualist.   This spiritualist theme allows Cloud to incorporate mind reading, hypnotist, and even meditative techniques to create his effects.  The emphasis is always on the mind reading, Cloud’s specialty, but the addition of the more varied techniques accentuates the story line of that segment, to Cloud’s benefit.

Notably, given the nature of Cloud’s show, he is nevertheless kind to his audience participants.  Cloud reserves the majority of his sinister affectations for the audience as a group, and is much more considerate when interacting with the individuals who put themselves before their peers to help him perform his tricks.

The split format of Psycho(logical) works well for Cloud.  While his séance themed section is certainly engaging, the premise may have felt a bit thinly stretched if he had attempted to hold it for the entire hour.  The only issue is that he did spend such a significant portion of his show on a segment that seemed to have little to no relation to his Psycho(logical) theme.  Cloud did end with a throwback to the start of the show that successfully tied the evening together, but these were external to the séance section.

Psycho(logical) is dependably impressive and reliably entertaining throughout.  Cloud’s séance section was a delightfully creative framework both to showcase his mind reading tricks and allow him to explore related techniques, but did feel like its own self-contained mini-show dropped randomly into the otherwise Psycho(logical) themed main event.

At the start of the show, Cloud claims that any member of the audience may be unknowingly sitting beside a psychopath.  By the end, the one thing that is clear is that, regardless of Cloud’s true mental state as a man, as a magician he certainly plays an entertaining psychopath.

 

Colin Cloud can be found at Pleasance Courtyard during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 20:00 from August 9-13, 15-27