Billy Reid

THE SECRET ROOM AT LAURISTON CASTLE

☆☆☆

MagicFest’s Secret Room events are fantastic, as the chosen venues lend a theme to the performances, and the addition of the historical lessons of the buildings ensure that the evening is about more than magic.  This second point is especially true for the Secret Room at Lauriston Castle.  The event features three magicians, but the castle itself is the fourth star of the show.

The audience is first led into the study, where Billy Reid begins the evening’s magic.  Reid is perhaps the most true to theme.  Inspired by a historical cabinet maker who lived at Lauriston Castle, he incorporates a wooden puzzle into his act, and he concludes with a coin trick inspired by the lost coin collection of one of the castle’s former residents.  Reid’s gorgeous illustrated card trick sequence set to “Caledonia” is a highlight, working particularly well in this smaller venue.

The drawing room of the castle barely contains the boisterous character of Ian Kendall.  His tricks are classic, featuring cups and balls or ropes and rings, but his jokes keep the audience laughing, and his rapport with the group draws everyone into the performance.  Kendall does integrate a bit of a history lesson in to his act, and expresses suitable admiration for the room that he is performing in, but only very tenuously links his tricks to the history of the venue.  He makes this work as his larger-than-life personality easily distracts the audience from any thematic absence.

Chris Cook concludes the performances of the evening in the castle’s library.  The tidy precision of Cook’s magic style is exceptionally effective with this smaller audience.  In keeping with the theme, Cook uses an audience participant’s phone for his final trick, because, as he explains, these days the internet serves a similar purpose that a library would have back when Lauriston Castle was built.   While this does run in to technical difficulties, Cook maintains the momentum of his performance to deliver his reveal.  It is perhaps all the more impressive for the unplanned extra suspense.

Cook’s performance brings the magic of the evening to a close, but the audience is lucky enough to have the opportunity to stick around for a quick tour of the remaining rooms of the castle.  This includes two real secret rooms hidden in the performance venues.  As the event begins with a brief re-telling of the story of the castle and ends on this tour, the actual magic shows feel surrounded by history.

Lauriston Castle is an incredible venue for this Secret Room event, and the magic matches the excellence of the architecture.  The assortment of magicians is well chosen, as their contrasting styles ensure that each of their performances feels distinct, and the contrast makes the event feel balanced.  The castle and illusions combined ensure a wonderful evening steeped in all the best history and magic Scotland has to offer.

BILLY REID – STORYTELLER

☆☆☆

In Storyteller, Billy Reid structures his performance around stories from his childhood, using magic to illustrate them and bring them to life.  “Illustrate” is perhaps the key word here, as aside from being incredibly well performed, Reid’s magic tricks are more often than not exceptionally aesthetically pleasing.

Reid sets this tone from his first card trick.  He starts it classically enough, with an audience participant picking a card that Reid then shuffles back in to his deck, but when the cards start changing to match the story that Reid tells, the fact that in the end he successfully finds the right card is actually the least exciting part of the act.  The artistic trend continues in Reid’s mentalist tricks, as he reads a volunteer’s mind by painting the scene that she is thinking of on a canvas on stage, his firm and decisive brush strokes keeping the audience engaged in trying to work out the final image.

Like all of this year’s solo shows at MagicFest, Storyteller is performed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and one of Reid’s tricks in particular would not look out of place in one of their exhibitions.  Reid uses a blank card deck that he has illustrated himself to tell the story of his love for Scotland in a trick that showcases both his magical and artistic skills.  This is a particularly inventive highlight of Reid’s beautifully creative show.

Reid’s tricks rely on audience participation just as much as any other magician’s, but Reid is notable in that he invites volunteers to step forward before randomly selecting a participant himself.  While both approaches have their merits, Reid’s worked for him in that his volunteers were visibly excited to participate, and the shyer members of his audience were presumably a little bit less stressed.  It is certainly more enjoyable to watch audience participants who participate enthusiastically.

Storyteller is a gorgeous production.  One of the personal details that Reid shares is that as a child he was passionate about his art classes, which is no surprise to his audience after seeing this show.  Reid smoothly combines his illustrative and performance skills into a remarkable experience.

 

More information on Billy Reid and his performance dates can be found here