Edinburgh Festival Fringe

DOM CHAMBERS: FAKE WIZARD

☆☆☆

Magicians will say all kinds of things to get members of their audience to join them on stage.  “It’ll be fun”, “I’ll give you a present”, “Everyone will cheer for you”, “I won’t hurt you”.  Dom Chambers has perhaps the most successful approach yet seen at this year’s Fringe, in his Edinburgh debut Fake Wizard.  Early in the show he lays out a row of beers and invites whoever gets there first to take one to enjoy while watching the rest of his show, queueing a brief race and at least a few people already predisposed to like him after having only spent a few short minutes in his presence.  This sets the tone for the rest of the show—Chambers has own cheeky takes on all the magic he performs. 

Throughout the show Chambers manages to maintain his good relationship with the audience.  He gets willing volunteers to hand him their valuables, and although magic audiences are trained to expect this to result in some temporary distress before the relief of the reveal he does leave them hanging for a while.  Nevertheless the individual in question is willing to trust Chambers repeatedly over the course of the show. 

In the reviewed showing Chambers also dealt with an unusual heckler, a baby, who was remarkably well behaved for the majority of the show but did make their complaints heard at the odd interval.  Chambers included this youngest of his fans in the act, and while the baby may not have noticed this was surely a relief to its adult guardians, as well as to the whole rest of the audience.  It’s easier to relax in to the enjoyment of the show with a magician who seems to have an even temperament. 

In Chambers’s display of Fake Wizard-ry the underlying structure of the tricks may feel familiar, but he dresses each one up to suit his playful personality.  And for his final effect, whether you love it or it makes you a little uncomfortable, you won’t see any other magician do it this Fringe.  Chambers certainly shows the kind of creative thinking that garners a fanbase. 

More information on Dom Chambers and his performance dates can be found here.

CHARLIE CAPER: MAGICAL

☆☆☆☆☆

The simplicity of the show title “Magical” perfectly reflects Charlie Caper’s 2022 Edinburgh Fringe show.  He doesn’t bother with an overarching plotline for the show, the closest we get is his recurring bowtie magic motif.  However, he is a master of the street magic style that he performs.  Everything bumbles along perfectly in keeping with his slightly scatterbrained character, without him ever losing control of the stage. 

The highlight of Caper’s shows is never the magic, as perfectly performed as it always is.  Caper always brings a selection of the robots that he creates to join in his show, to play the assistant role in a few of his tricks.  It’s the marvel of these robots and the delight of his adorable interactions with them that really sets his shows apart.  This year we only get two of them (Caper’s fans may remember that he devoted his show to introducing us to hundreds of them a few years ago) but they are as delightful as ever.  The most memorable one is given a little bowtie to match Caper’s own. 

The magic that Caper performs may be recognizable to those who attend a lot of magic shows, but here we see it performed flawlessly.  His brief coin trick uses an extra large coin, which is helpful for those seated toward the back of his venue, and his card tricks similarly involve a signed card to make it easier for the whole audience to follow along with the action.  A veteran street magician, it’s evident that Caper has honed his act in front of large crowds and easily avoids any of the usual pitfalls of performing sleight of hand to such a big group.  He is especially charming when he invites a young child on stage to participate in a trick, indulging her curiosity about his props without letting it break his flow. 

In Magical, Caper’s effects are always perfect and often beautiful.  Though he is not especially well advertised, his reputation alone gets him a decent crowd early in the Fringe, which can only grow as word of his current show’s quality spreads.  Fringe goers interested in excellent magic would do well to spend an hour with Caper. 

More information on Charlie Caper and his performance dates can be found here.

RENZ NOVANI: ORACLE: DO YOU WANT TO SEE THE FUTURE?

☆☆☆☆

The Fringe is a very loud place, from flyerers clamoring to grab attention to performers using their best projection to ensure that their audience can hear them in distracting venues.  It’s part of the appeal, but can get tiring.  Stepping up the stairs to Renz’s calming, lilting voice and softer charisma is a welcome reprieve.  The audience of his show Oracle: Do You Want to See the Future gets to listen to him as he leads them through a series of mentalist effects in a bid to show that he, too, joins the oracles of mythology in ability to see the future. 

Renz dips in to a range of methods to display his mentalist and predictive powers.  Perhaps most fun and impressive is when he requests that audience members generate creative responses to his prompts for him to read from their minds, giving the rest of the audience insight both in to their fellow audience members and Renz himself via the range of prompts available.  You’ll find no ESP cards here, Renz’s methods create a unique experience of his skills at each show. 

The audience members who join Renz’s show as magical participants can expect an especially uplifting experience in an already uplifting show, being rewarded for leaving their seats with compliments and kindness.  Renz is a supportive presence, an audience member who initially has some trouble with Renz’s instructions becomes a temporary co-star in his own right.  Joining Renz on stage is not the only way that the audience participates in the show, which ends up feeling like a culmination of the audience’s collective participation.  

If Renz cheats the question in his ultimate conclusions regarding precognition it is no more than is reasonably expected of magicians, and the result is more inspirational than prospective audiences might anticipate.  While we at World Magic Review don’t claim to possess Renz’s precognitive abilities, we do foresee that Renz’s future audiences will very much enjoy his show. 

More information on Renz Novani and his performance dates can be found here.

ANDREW MCKINLAY: NECESSARY LIES

☆☆☆

Andrew McKinlay’s Necessary Lies has found its home in that most archetypical of free fringe venues: the back of a bar.  It’s also an archetypical fringe magic show.  An overarching theme is noticeable and appreciated to bring some shape to the string of tricks that McKinlay performs.  There are the expected unexpected moments of a magic show, and McKinlay is a strong performer, the audience doesn’t see anything to break the illusions. 

A mentalist, McKinlay uses all the classic props and doesn’t shy away from poking fun at himself for it—“It wouldn’t be a mentalist show without notecards and a sharpie”, after all.  ESP shapes are used prominently as well, in a fun sequence in which McKinlay tests whether or not the audience as a collective has the mind reading abilities to tell where he has placed the shapes. 

The small weekday evening audience of the reviewed show bonded over such moments.  Given the size, there were several times that entire audience was involved in a single trick, and even once where the whole group was all up on stage with McKinlay, effectively performing for ourselves.  This temporary sense of community, both in support of McKinlay as the magician of the evening and in response to knowing that we were collectively choosing to be manipulated by him, is the kind of magic that was most difficult to translate to the pandemic era and is a welcome sign of increasing normalcy. 

Necessary Lies has all the classic mentalist ingredients, with a little bit extra structure to make the audience think without asking them to think too hard.  McKinlay brings his full force of energy to even his small weekday shows, easily holding attention in an uncontrollable bar environment.  The Fringe going audience could do a whole lot worse than spend an hour in his company. 

More information on Andrew McKinlay and his performance dates can be found here.

PROFESSOR NOVAK’S BIZARRE TALES

☆☆☆

Every year, the Fringe features an overwhelmingly gigantic array of shows. While in the wake of the pandemic it has fallen slightly short of the record, from the individual perspective this year feels no different. If you venture off the beaten path to a venue that is new this year, perhaps to a late night show on a Monday evening, you may end up the sole audience member at your chosen event.  If you’re lucky the performer will deal with this as gracefully and professionally at Professor Novak in Professor Novak’s Bizarre Tales.  Staged in a disused section of the Omni Centre (one of the cooler PBH venues this year) at a relatively late time slot, it stands to reason that Professor Novak sees a slump in attendees on an evening early in the work week.  However, this is a shame, as his Bizarre Tales are well thought through and performed with enthusiasm, regardless of the audience size. 

These tales are loosely tied together by the character of Professor Novak, who guides the audience through his mystical curiosities.  It’s a magic show, and magic tricks are employed as evidence of the mysterious properties of these objects, but what sets this show apart is the storytelling, which draws the audience in to the world that Novak creates.  While a couple of prop issues keep it from perfection, the audience barely notices or minds.  Psychic cards, boards that communicate with the spirit realm, and mystical boxes serve to highlight key moments in the tales.  It ends on an interesting, original note that subverts the expectations of even frequent attendees of magic shows, and especially admirably, comes to a satisfying conclusion without the cliched reveal that the magician knew everything that happened before it did.

Even while maintaining a slightly zany character, Novak does not come across as threatening to his audience, and even manages to build a good rapport through the eccentricities of his persona.  He uses the roles of participants to uplift the audience in addition to the traditional eyes of the public up close to the trick.  This is a different challenge with just one audience member, but not necessarily an easier one, and Novak rises to it with apparent ease. 

Professor Novak’s Bizarre Tales has evidentially been underrated as at the evening of the reviewed performance.  It’s one of the better scripted magic shows, performed very enthusiastically regardless of audience size, and definitely deserves a larger audience.  While perhaps not one for those who value a magic show based on concentration of tricks, it’s great for those who want to listen to spooky stories, with the odd magical twist.  

More information on Professor Novak and his performance dates can be found here.

SIMON SOUTH: CLOSE UP CONJURING

☆☆

South presents soft, intimate array of close up tricks to an audience that is able to gather as closely as prevailing pandemic norms allow. The magic used consists of several classic tricks that may be fairly familiar to magic fans in the audience.  South works his way through several card, coin, and hoop tricks, all performed well.  A fun variation sees him perform a trick using the ubiquitous PBH Free Fringe program guide.  This essential guide to every Fringe schedule is much thinner this year than usual, perhaps making it easier to give it the centre-stage treatment that it gets at this point in South’s show. 

There is no issue in South’s performance of his magic, but the show feels a bit stilted with inconsistent transitions.  After some of his tricks the audience feels like they are just watching South tidy away his props before he takes out the next one and continues to perform.  Having a more consistent stream of patter or integrating the necessary transition points in to the act may help the show flow more smoothly. 

Given the reduced audience sizes of this pandemic Fringe, South is able to include the majority of his audience in the magic.  Participants don’t even have to get up on stage, as South is able to include them where they are sitting.  South is friendly and respectful with everyone who he includes in his show. 

In Close Up Conjuring South does exactly what it says in the title.  It’s a pretty standard, boilerplate show from a performer who has the magical skill to perform convincingly to an audience sat very close to him.  This is a solid show for those looking for an afternoon of magic. 

More information on Simon South and his performance dates can be found here.

DAVID ALNWICK: NIGHTMARE MAGIC

☆☆☆☆☆

The first nightmare of David Alnwick’s Nightmare Magic is trying to get a ticket – he is still part of the PBH Free Fringe, but is so popular that placeholder tickets are given out an hour before the start time in an attempt to reduce his usual hours-long queues.  This has effectively shifted the massive queuing to an hour earlier, and turned it in to more of a scrum in the bar area of his venue.  This publication has said it before and it bears repeating, Alnwick is wildly, ridiculously popular.  Nightmare Magic is framed as a demonstration of his mysterious objects’ powers, but what it really demonstrates beyond doubt is that Alnwick more than earns his reputation with every show that he performs at the Fringe. 

Alnwick goes light on the actual magic here.  Nightmare Magic is as much a one man play as it is a magic show, and he easily holds his audience’s attention without it.  As much as Alnwick establishes that he doesn’t need magic to be an effective performer, being a magician he did of course create a show that uses magic to bring his stories to life.  His variety of mentalist and sleight of hand tricks are performed perfectly.  Between the perfection of his execution and the well thought out props, the magic blends seamlessly into the plot of the show. 

The show is scary, especially for the easily frightened like this reviewer.  Alnwick’s participants are not spared from the frights, but it is nothing out of the ordinary for show billed as a horror story.  For those who might be worried, it’s more of a creeping sensation of impending doom than anything like jump scares.  You might want a comforting cup of tea and an episode of your favorite sitcom before bed. 

Alnwick has reached a point in his career where he could coast on the formidable skill set that earned him his reputation and probably still cause daily stampedes for a spot in his shows.  But Nightmare Magic shows that he has instead chosen to innovate, pushing his own boundaries and the boundaries of magic as a genre.  In watching a range of magic shows it is often evident that Alnwick in particular is a source of inspiration for many young Fringe magicians, so it’s especially nice to see him modeling a wide range of approaches to magic across his portfolio of shows.  This year the cult leader has gone a little bit mad, and is more interested in discovering his audience member’s names than hearing them chant his own.  Next year could be anything, but knowing Alnwick it will at the very least be well worth a watch.

More information on Alnwick and his performance dates can be found here.

SIMON SOUTH: MID FRINGE MIRACLES

☆☆☆

Surprise plot twists and big reveals can make for exciting entertainment, but sometimes it’s nice to go in to a show knowing what to expect and having those expectations perfectly matched.  Simon South’s Mid Fringe Miracles is that kind of magic show.  There’s no theme, philosophizing, or plotline to unify the magic, but it’s done well, and South is an engaging entertainer to watch onstage. 

South utilizes a range of magic tricks that tend toward the classical.  There is even a multitude of brightly colored scarves – spot on for a perfect caricature of a magician.  A brief bout of mind reading touches on the lack of women in magic, an important point in this often homogenous industry, but does not dwell on it.  A highlight is a very pretty effect involving smoke, fire, and a couple of glasses.  South here shows a modern creativity in prop choice, using an e-cigarette to create the smoke. 

This odd Fringe has often resulted in unusually reduced audiences, and South unfortunately fell victim to this circumstance.  However, he made the most of those who were there.  A couple of individual disruptions, including one poor soul who came in expecting a rapper and left when he realized he was at a magic show, failed to derail South’s performance, as South cheerfully commented on the interruption and returned to his act.  The smaller audience size means that absolutely everyone participates, creating an intimate communal atmosphere. 

Mid Fringe Miracles is just about as quintessentially magic as it can get.  Trick follows trick and South guides us through them with an unendingly chipper flow of jokes and stories.  It’s the comfort food of magic shows, and in a year of so many real life plot twists and unexpected changes maybe this is exactly what magic fans will want. 

More information on Simon South and his performance dates can be found here.

ROBERT TEMPLE: THE HYPNOTIST

☆☆☆☆

Hypnotists have been noticeable primarily by their absence this Fringe.  As a genre even more dependent on touching strangers than other performers, it is understandable that many may not have felt comfortable doing shows, or confident that they could get willing participants.  Robert Temple is the exception willing to take the gamble.  In the simply titled ‘The Hypnotist’, he talks us through some of the theory behind hypnosis and, of course, gives everyone in the audience the opportunity to try out being hypnotised themselves.

Like many hypnotists, Temple devotes time in the first part of his show to discussing hypnotism in theory before demonstrating it in practice.  He describes himself as a comedy hypnotist, and this is where the majority of the comedy comes in.  Future audiences may be comforted to note that he makes fun of himself far more than any of his participants, and that if he does poke fun at his audience it will be during this first part of the show, when everyone is fully awake.

Perhaps in a bid to flatter the audience on to his stage, Temple describes hypnosis as a function of creativity.  This appears to work well for him.  At the reviewed show he was working with a relatively small audience, as many performers are at this pandemic Fringe.  Given the nature of his act he made sure to warn the audience ahead of time that volunteering to take part would require some physical touch.  Nevertheless he easily filled his ten spots on stage with eager participants looking to be hypnotised.  Once they were hypnotised, the demonstrations he encourages from them tended toward silliness rather than any kind of public embarrassment.

As is always the risk, perhaps especially in a discipline such as hypnosis, something did go wrong.  In this case, one of the participants ‘woke up’ from his hypnotised state unexpectedly early, having a knock-on effect on the others on stage.  Temple dealt with this with the apparent ease of a practiced professional, calmly switching a few things around, and of course looking after his participants to smooth their exit from his show.

For those looking to be hypnotised this Fringe, Temple may be the only option.  Luckily he’s a great option.  His style of hypnosis appears to be reasonably effective on a range of individuals.  All go in with the confidence that they will feel safe on his stage, and by the time they leave they can feel confident that their trust in him was justified.

More information on Robert Temple and his performance dates can be found here.

ANDREW MCKINLAY: PERSPECTIVE

☆☆☆

The titular theme of Perspective is mentioned briefly in Andrew McKinlay’s show, but not really well explored.  This appears to be intentional and probably for the best.  At the reviewed show he certainly didn’t get much of the kind of audience who would be willing to follow along with a big theme.  There are hints of a more thoughtful kind of show that McKinlay might have put together for a different time slot, that would definitely be of interest to see at a future Fringe. 

There will always be increasing numbers of drunk people at Fringe shows as the night goes on.  In Perspective Andrew McKinlay appears to have embraced his fate, as one of the later slots at a venue with a great drinks menu, of having to deal with high numbers of drunk people in his audience.  This is what is showcased of his skill set.  And the magic is nice too, it’s a solid foundation for McKinlay to use to corral the drinkers into a reluctant audience willing to cooperate with his show. 

McKinlay uses a variety of sleight of hand and mentalist tricks throughout the set.  These are performed well enough, certainly for the composition of the audience.  The crowd was especially fond of an effect early in the show, in which McKinlay invites a range of participants on to the stage to draw a face, after which he attempts to match the drawing to the individual who drew it.  It is perhaps indicative of the evening that the participants’ antics drew more of a reaction from the audience than McKinlay’s successful completion of the effect. 

As will be evident from the preceding paragraphs of this review, McKinlay faced a challenging audience at the reviewed show – weirdly drunk for a Tuesday evening and entirely unafraid to heckle frequently.  McKinlay handled them like the professional that he is.  It was actually difficult to gauge how disruptive the audience was while sitting in the show, as McKinley was so adept at responding to them and redirecting the audience’s attention that the progress of the show flowed smoothly around the many interruptions.  It is in hindsight that it is clear how hard he was working to make his show look so effortless. 

Perspective may not change the audience’s perspective of much.  But McKinlay knows what he’s dealing with and delivers a solid magic show, to amaze even the most drunk of Fringe-goers regardless of whether they want to be amazed or not. 

More information on Andrew McKinlay and his performance dates can be found here.