Ben Hart

BEN HART: THE NUTSHELL

☆☆

The room already radiates an air of enigma as you walk in, and this is just your basic Fringe venue. What is it about Ben Hart that infuses mysteriousness into any room in which he walks?  That question may never be answered, and maybe that’s for the best. What can be known, however, is that Ben Hart’s The Nutshell is an elegant, stylistic experience in truly beautiful magic.

The Nutshell feels, in a nutshell (sorry), like a desperate and intense attempt of a magician at piercing the true nature of his art and its’ limits. A journey in magical madness, even, but one so artfully explored that it pulls every onlooker in, captivated from start to finish. From changing the course of fate to nature to murder, Hart somehow connects an array of topics into a enthralling rhythm.

Hart is an understated performer, gentle in word and movement, which makes his magic feel all the more astonishing when it happens- you’ve been lulled into a pleasant reverie by his stories when you’re caught off guard by the reveal of the illusion he’s slipped past you. Hart is masterful at maintaining a sense of delicious tension, never letting the mood break even when he has to instruct audience volunteers. He weaves his way through the slipperiest of sleight of hand, and appears as watchful of his audience as we are of him, a small smirk as if wondering how far he can trick us into suspending our disbelief.

Ben Hart is an exceptionally skillful magician and a bewitching performer. You won’t leave The Nutshell completely understanding what you just saw- or even what you were meant to see- but you won’t be able to stop wondering about it.

 

Ben Hart can be found at Gilded Balloon Teviot during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 20:15 from August 18-27

More information on Ben Hart and his performance dates can be found here

BEN HART: BELIEF?

☆☆☆☆☆

Early on in his show, Ben Hart compares magic to time travel- a way of recapturing the powerful feelings of surprise and amazement that many adults feel are gradually beaten down by the passage of time. His skillful and intriguing tricks in ‘Belief?’ certainly manage to inspire such emotions.

The hour does begin with a little bit more intensity than would perhaps be expected from a magic show. In his opening sequence, Hart describes the performance of the trick of making objects disappear as a form of self-harm; he details how performing such tricks caused him to forget who and where he was, losing his identity. This may have been part of why the first word used to describe his show in the official Fringe description is “dark”. Ultimately, it made me a little bit worried about him. That intensity continues as a theme throughout, although it quickly simmers down to calmer, less concerning, levels.

Hart continuously integrates his illusions into his storytelling. He tells the audience a story—topics range from describing prejudices against a sewage worker to an explanation of Schrodinger’s cat—and then transitions seamlessly into a trick with that theme. Hart keeps the audience engaged in his stories both with his personality and with clever use of light. For one story, he sits with a bright light shining directly on him, evoking a pleasant modern campfire effect.

This storytelling aspect does result in a lower concentration of actual magical content. While his entire act as an artist is certainly appealing to an audience composed primarily of adults, it is perhaps not the best choice for children. However, Hart engaged with the one child in his audience by inviting him to take part in one of the tricks, which is a nice gesture toward guardians who may have expected a more traditional child-oriented magic performance.

Hart’s show is an interesting and absorbing way to spend an hour. His use of storytelling both to entertain and to incorporate his magic into his theme gives his act a pleasant and calming flow. ‘Belief?’ does not feel like just another magic show, but a polished performance piece. Both the cohesiveness of theme and the pervasiveness of Hart’s personal style set this show apart and make it both enjoyable and worthwhile to watch.

 

 

More information on Ben Hart and his performance dates can be found here

 

 

BEN HART: THE VANISHING BOY

☆☆☆☆☆

It was magic like poetry. Not the script necessarily, not specifically, but how the storytelling interwove with the tricks. A “plot”, for lack of a better word, is always good in a magic show, but this was beautiful. Mr Hart did magic tricks, of course, but he didn’t make it a magic show in the sense you would expect. It was theatre, not theatricality. He turned tricks into something you can actually, temporarily let yourself believe is truly supernatural, and it was spellbinding.

The tale we were to follow is a mystery, harkening back to olden times, to days of magic past. A juxtaposition of his modern self and something form the depths of the century. Despite his young age, Mr Hart radiated a kind of wisdom when he settled into his storytelling reverie, lulling the audience into willingly suspending their disbelief, letting them hear the drip of phantom rain and the bewilderment of an unexpected, strange visitor at your door.

But it’s the 21st fucking century, folks. We’ve seen magic tricks, we know them well. We squint for hidden wires and when a twenty-something (I’m assuming?) beguiles us with dark tales, a little bit of our minds will stay modern despite, modern and skeptical. And he knows that. So when it’s been going a little too long, maybe, when you can’t stay under the comfortable romantic lull for much longer, he whips the act back, to silly, borderline risque (but covertly enough that he needn’t worry about kids in the audience) jokes, and to unexpectedly funny tricks.

And his tricks are beautiful as well. Falling naturally and elegantly within the narrative, he does confounding magic. At one point, he took a magic standard that I’ve seen countless times before, and changes it, in such a way that it invalidated everything I know about how the original is done in the first place.

But the truth of Ben Hart’s show is not the trickery, but the presentation. It is acts like this that make you remember why magic is so powerful in the first place. If you go to a lot of different magic acts- as one can easily do, as I am, here at the Edinburgh Fringe- you might forget that sense of awe in the attempt to deconstruct, to figure it all out. But it’s so important not to. Of course that desire will still stay, of course as you walk out and shake Mr Hart’s hand (can I just say I love performers who stick around to greet their audience after) and tell him how magnificent he was and wander off, your mind will be twisting and mulling and trying to work it out. But at the same time, and more importantly, you will be brilliantly and blissfully astounded and bewitched.

Ben Hart is performing at Underbelly Cowgate at 4:40pm until August 24th. Seriously, go see him.

+Extra point: It is about 40 minutes since I got out of the show. I literally had to write this all immediately, because the experience was so fantastic. Thank you for the ‘bloody’ tissue by the way, Mr Hart.