As a reviewer it can be a little bit annoying when a performer reworks a show that previously merited five stars and makes it even better—of course we’re happy for them, and pleased to be able to watch such a great show, but it’s hard to contend with how to rate an already perfectly rated performance. David Alnwick’s Nightmare Magic is similar enough that returning fans will have an idea of what they are getting themselves in for, but different enough to come across as a distinct play/magic show. Alnwick is exceptional, as ever, and is possibly even scarier than before, but that’s why the audience chooses to attend this show.
An immediately new feature this year is the playbill that each person is handed on entering. It features Alnwick’s usual list of recommendations and social media details—the food recommendation section may be new—as well as, more excitingly, a short story written by Alnwick that he asks the audience to read before the show. Nightmare Magic previously bridged the genres of theatre and magic, but now includes literature as well. Alnwick’s vision is matched only by his skill, every aspect of this ambitious project is executed to the highest level.
The acclaim is of course due to Alnwick, but the realized ambition of Nightmare Magic is also a testament to what can be achieved within the PBH Free Fringe. The PBH is better known for its accessibility for less-well-known artists to put on their first Fringe show or two, but here we see it equally well suited to a seasoned performer at the height of popularity creating bold new work.
The magic of Nightmare Magic is perfectly executed and perfectly woven in to the narrative. The most satisfying is watching the final moment of the show slowly revealed over the course of several effects. Alnwick hasn’t just used magic here, it’s fully integrated and necessary to the narration of his plotline—a truly magical ghost story. Audience members and participants in particular may feel lightly terrified of Alnwick’s scary character, but no more than is called for.
When promoting Nightmare Magic in his other shows Alnwick is keen to emphasize that it may not be the right choice for the full range of his fans. It’s certainly a departure from his classic magic style. Nightmare Magic, however, is perfect if you don’t mind the fright, for when you want to see a wider range of what the incredible Alnwick is capable of.
More information on Alnwick and his performance dates can be found here.