HAYDINI

You can often conjecture how well a magic show will play out just by taking a glance around the theatre. As I scanned the room for the best available seats, I couldn’t help but notice the demographics of the crowd; while there was a wide array of ages in attendance, there was definitely a large amount of children. While this isn’t necessarily a negative fact, I was initially concerned that either the magic would be catered to those who are younger or the act would struggle with child volunteers. I am pleased to say that I was proven wrong.

Our evening began with an introduction from the show’s “sponsor”, a Mr. N. S. A. touting the omnipresence of suggestive advertising and personal data collection. This small dip into suggestibility would be a common theme running through the evening. Haydini then presented us with the set up for an excellent reveal at the end of the show. Following this he quickly delved into a myriad of entertaining and well-executed sets, varying from sleight-of-hand to feats of mentalism. Each reveal earned him well deserved applause, impressing even the most discerning of audience members.

Haydini certainly excelled in incorporating the audience into his acts. He allowed individuals to choose whether they would like to participate, as opposed to selecting members who may be uncomfortable in the spotlight. Our magician worked well with each volunteer regardless of their age, which I’m sure you can guess is no easy task. His skill in improvisation allowed for him to adapt and make a situation comic that may have become awkward in the hands of a less skilled performer.

His improv skills certainly came of use during the show, as there were many times his technician was having issues with sound and light cues, which probably could have been fixed with a bit more rehearsing. While it did detract from the show a bit, Haydini managed each blip professionally and didn’t let the technical difficulties steal the show.

Ultimately, Haydini provides a fun, entertaining show that holds your attention throughout the entire evening. I would recommend his show to family and friends of all ages. The variety of his performance and the skill to which it was executed was captivating and attested to his prowess as a magician and performer. As he so aptly stated, “Anybody can cut you in half, but only a magician can put you back together.”

MAGIC FEST CLOSING GALA: LEVITATIONS

This year’s Edinburgh International Magic Festival celebrated the end of its week of events with the MagicFest Gala: Levitations.

The event was hosted by the charming Kevin Quantum, a magician with international experience from Fife, Scotland. Kevin Quantum performed several bits of magic himself between acts. In a heartwarming gesture of inclusivity, he made a point of inviting children from the back section of the theatre to be the participants in his magic. Kevin Quantum’s engaging presentation of the acts as well as his between-act performances integrated the range of acts into a cohesive showcase of magic.

Cubic Act opened the Gala with their mysterious floating box. Their graceful choreography and whimsical illusions were wonderful to watch. Alan Hudson followed with a comedic magical act. In contrast with the other acts, which were performed to music, Hudson chatted with the audience throughout his performance, and provided the comic relief of the first half of the show.

Next up were Les Chapeux Blancs with their delightfully stylized performance. On the stage lit only by a composition of small bright lights, the two magicians, dressed in white, climbed up the air, into the ground, and in and out of sight as if they could jump in and out of reality. The contrasts of the props and costumes with the dimly lit stage, combined with the precision of the magicians, gave this act an otherworldly atmosphere that is surely enviable to other magicians.

After the interval, Bertox took to the stage with his spinning rings. His distinctive take on juggling was captivating and calming in an almost hypnotic way. Aaron Crow then brought along his romance-themed magical stunt. Crow was impressive in the precision that he brought to his act and delightfully humorous in his silent mannerisms.

The final act, Marko Karvo, featured infinite scarves that produced infinite birds. Karvo was styled as a prototypical magician, dressed in a tailcoat and accompanied by a glamorous assistant. His act might have felt outdated if it weren’t so skillfully and elegantly done, but Karvo’s evident ability and flair made this an engaging performance. Unanticipated entertainment was provided by his largest and most brightly colored bird, which decided that it preferred to perch on the exit doorway at the back of the theatre rather than in the cage that Karvo had obligingly conjured for it.

The MagicFest Gala was a lovely celebration of both the Edinburgh magic scene and global live magic performance. The range of the performances was a wonderful demonstration of the diversity of modern magical acts, and Kevin Quantum’s enthusiasm radiated optimism about the state of magic as a field, making the closing gala a triumphant end to a week of magic in Edinburgh.

THE SECRET ROOM AT THE WRITERS’ MUSEUM

☆☆☆☆

At ‘The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum’, the show kicked off outside the beautiful Lady Stair’s House with a few card tricks and a history lecture. This was to become a running theme throughout the evening. Three magicians were placed in writer-specific rooms in the museum, having each prepared a short presentation on their writer, and, of course, a magic show based on themes taken from that writer’s life or body of work. The audience was split in half on arrival, with attendees being handed either a red or black playing card, to better squeeze everyone into the relatively small rooms.

Renz Novani, the “Poet of the Impossible”, presided over the Robert Burns room. In between reading some Burns poetry and some of his own Burns poetry, Novani performed both mentalist and card magic tricks. His elegantly playful magic in combination with his enchanting spoken word performance made for a wonderful show. Novani’s evident passion for poetry and the magic of language made him a particularly suitable magician both for this event and more specifically for the Burns room.

The Sir Walter Scott room was filled by Ewan Callison’s flamboyant personality. While his larger-than-life persona may perhaps be better matched with a larger venue, he put together a combination of historical storytelling and primarily mentalist magic that flowed well with the intentionally small audience. That effectively assembled show proved to be entertaining as both a magic show and a comedic act.

The magician who welcomed the audience with the previously mentioned outdoor performance, Chris Cook, performed in the Robert Louis Stevenson room. Cook’s enthusiasm for the nautical themes- taken from Treasure Island- gave his series of sleight of hand tricks a sense of direction and cohesiveness, while his enthusiasm for performing magic imbued his performance with joy. Cook’s magic stood out as exceptionally astonishing, and left several members of the audience still expressing their amazement as they made their way out of the museum.

The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was an enjoyable evening of magic and history. It may not be for everyone, as some might prefer their magic without a literary lecture, but this reviewer loves a good history lesson. The venue and quasi-educational approach broadened the appeal of this event beyond the usual magic fans. This show, and presumably the other Secret Room events, showcased a select few of Edinburgh’s many tourist attractions in a decidedly different way than your standard daytime excursion. The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was a worthwhile visit both for magic enthusiasts and for those looking for a whimsical tour through one of Edinburgh’s most fascinating museums.

 

Runs Mon 3 July – Thur 6 July 2017 as part of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival; Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA

THE ILLUSIONISTS

☆☆☆☆

The Illusionists claim to be the “largest touring show in magic history anywhere,” but it is not just in size that they dominate the stage magic world. This show features a broad breadth of magic sub-fields, ensuring that no matter what style sparks your interest, there’s something spectacular for you at this performance.

The magical emcee of the Illusionists is Jeff Hobson, whose showmanship is the greatest boon to the performance as a whole. This comedy magician has a grandiose, flamboyant persona and wickedly slick wit, with a clever crack at the ready no matter what his volunteers or the audience do. Not only are the jokes fast but his hands as well, and in one memorable case, his tongue.

Attending a magic show, an audience expects to see some things they can’t explain. But having the thoughts plucked right out of their minds has it’s own special shock value. This illusion is delivered by Colin Cloud. Billed as ‘the Deductionist,’ the comparisons to Sherlock Holmes are blatant. Funnier than Benedict Cumberbatch and more dapper than Jeremy Brett, Cloud’s astute predictions are both impressive and terrifying.

Andrew Basso is  ‘The Escapologist’, and recreates one of Houdini’s greatest feats, the Water Torture Cell. Although, if the reaction of the ladies in the audience is any indication, he’s a bit more fit than his inspiration. It’s a bonus for them that the cell walls are clear, so we can see exactly how Basso expertly breaks out of his bonds, even under the intense pressure of holding his breath for several minutes.

Anti- Conjurer Dan Sperry strikes an attitude contrast to his peers, with no geniality to offer Sperry instead has a sullen menace that pairs appropriately with his wince-worthy tricks. No matter how desperate you are to see what’s going down, it takes a brave soul to peek through their fingers at this grotesque magic.

Rounding out the cast are ‘The Inventor’ Kevin James, with dramatic displays of craftily constructed magic, ‘The Manipulator’ Halim An with a beautifully choreographed sleight of hand, and ‘The Daredevil’ Jonathan Goodwin with heart-stoppingly stressful stunts that are also much to the credit of his assistants.

It is perhaps not a straight-forward compliment to say that the Illusionists are like magical hors d’oeuvres. Delivering short performances in rapid- fire, you never exactly feel like you’ve gotten the meat of the magic show, or like you’ve gotten to see each individual magician at their best. Just when you get attached to one flavor of magic, you’re two conjurers later. But there is an undeniable benefit to this recipe, that even if one magician isn’t to your taste, you get at least three more that are. Food metaphors aside, because they’re getting labored, The Illusionists is the perfect magic show to make you realize that you do actually like magic shows.

March 29, Heymann Performing Arts Center, Lafayette LA.

More information about the Illusionists and further dates of their tour can be found here.

 

BIBS ‘N’ BOBS RELOADED

☆☆☆☆

Bibs ‘n’ Bobs Reloaded is a magic show exactly as it sounds, being constructed of simple objects from an ordinary Morrisons bag. As well as, of course, being a pun on magician Elliot Bibby’s surname. This show is a prime example that something created with the most humble of objects can become something fantastic.

As it is an unavoidable aspect of the Fringe, venue conditions are generally not fair play to comment on in a review. But when an act surpasses the limitations of their stage spectacularly, it is worth noting upon. Bibby transcends the obstacles his particularly difficult venue with impressive agility. It isn’t just his understanding of the necessity to elevate his tricks enough for everyone to see- although that is something a lot of Fringe magicians, including ones with ticketed shows, could learn from. But more specifically to his art, Bibby wove together his act so well that it grabs your attention away from any discomforts and distractions.

Bibby’s skill is in his presentation as well as attention to detail. Composed and dapper, Bibby charms without any of that stereotypical magician smarminess. His onstage persona is just genuine enough to foster a connection with the audience, but aloof enough to maintain a sense of mystery. He expertly handles heckling, both of the negative and of the positive but obnoxiously intrusive varieties. He has unfaltering intuition of when to humor the interjections and when to ignore them, having literally no missteps in this regard despite it being prevalent throughout his show.

In terms of actual illusions, Bibby intertwines the traditional and the imaginatively unique to create masterful magic. Using everything from cards and fire to the titular bibs and bobs in his bag, Bibby nonetheless maintains the needed cohesiveness to make his show polished and professional. Slick but funny from beginning to end, Elliot Bibby unquestionably proves his magical prowess and potential in Bibs ‘n’ Bobs Reloaded.

Originally published here.

AAABEDUATION: A MAGIC SHOW

☆☆

“We are the first show… in the Edinburgh Fringe Guide” magicians Malin Nilsson and Charlie Caper crow happily, claiming this as the reason for their strangely named show. This seems odd to be the sole reason to name a show, but as no other explanation is given, we just have to go with it. This sets the trend for this show which might have been inspired at the start, but doesn’t exactly follow through into a satisfying result.

Nilsson and Caper both hail from Switzerland and have been doing magic together for several years, so it is unfortunate that the chemistry together is the weakest aspect of the show. Caper is the comedy magician of the pair and Nilsson the choreographed illusionist. Instead of the two parts of the performance complementing each other, the combination is jarring in its delivery. However, they are both reasonably strong separately, so not a hopeless dealbreaker.

For most of her part of the show, Nilsson does magic tricks silently to music. They are very elegantly performed and she has an excellent sense of stylistic development, but they are a bit hackneyed. Even if someone only has seen a couple other magic shows, they have probably seen these illusions before. That’s no problem if presented with original flair and personality, but as she does them they just come across stale and the applause is accordingly muted.

Caper delivers with such endearing cheesiness that even things that shouldn’t be funny are because of his perfect presentation. An ongoing joke with a bow tie never fails to gain laughter and his great persona means that – although he also uses traditional magic in parts – it comes across as more original and compelling, if not as well rehearsed.

Caper and Nilsson struggle with integrating the two distinctive parts of their performance, but if they can solve this problem, Aaabeduation will succeed in becoming a bewitching show.

Originally published here

PETE FIRMAN: SUPER DUPER

☆☆☆☆☆

‘It’s fucking magic.’ Pete Firman says this as a joke, but those three words are his show in a nutshell. Blunt, irreverent, and frustratingly riveting, Peter Firman: Super Duper is a manifestation of ‘how the hell did he do that’ in sixty minutes. Often, to enjoy a magic show, an audience needs to apply a suspension of disbelief, not because the magic is poor, but because you are rational. But in Super Duper, you don’t need to try with your belief, because Firman has deftly claimed it for himself within mere minutes of walking (or rather, appearing) onstage.

Firman is the master of ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ magic, a slick professional whose show rattles with hilarity and wonder. There are absolutely no seconds of dead air in this performance; he fills every moment with his pithy wit. Caught up in these bursts of intense enthusiasm and crackling humour, the audience is drawn wholly into his remarkable illusions. His tricks were magic classics, but done with such skill and ease that even someone looking in all the right places wouldn’t see how they were being fooled. Not that anyone could possibly hope to look in those right places.

Firman interacts easily with his spectators, both in the case of his participants and of heckling members of his audience who might dare to get up in the middle of the show. (Oh how the tables turn.) His humour is harsh enough to be hilarious but not too mean to cross a line, and means that even if someone has stood up in front of you to sneak off the the bathroom, Firman still keeps full command of your attention.

Pete Firman: Super Duper is a brilliant magical performance that will guarantee you an amazing night of bewildering illusions and breathless laughter.

Originally published here.