Edinburgh Fringe

AN INTERVIEW WITH SIMON EVANS AND DAVID AULA

Edinburgh Fringe 2018 is over, but reviewer Hannah S. got to sit down with Simon Evans and David Aula, whose ‘The Vanishing Man’ and ‘The Extinction Event’ we’re absolutely obsessed with. Read on to find out about what it was like to create and perform these shows, and how they’re doing after spending a month doing two shows a day (they’re fine, they’re absolutely  fine, don’t bring it up, okay?) Warning: heavy spoilers ahead- if you haven’t seen these shows, figure out how to make that happen first.

Hannah: Important question first: you’ve done two shows a day for nearly an entire Fringe now- are you guys okay?

David: Mmmmmm yeah, okay, okay, okay, I’m absolutely fine, okay… (laughs)

Simon: Don’t ask us those sorts of questions.

D: So I also have…my son is with us, he’ll be eight weeks tomorrow, so he’ll have spent more time at the Fringe, proportionally, than anyone else, ever, in the history of mankind.

S: Of percentage of his life

D: of percentage of his life, yeah. So he’s been keeping me busy when I’m not on stage, so being onstage is like a little break.

S: It’s funny, we’ve been very lucky, we’ve been sold out quite a few times, and on the days when we haven’t it’s very noticeable, when the audience is a bit smaller and a bit quieter, those are tough shows to do. And you really feel it I think-

D: when you’re not riding the wave

S: yeah when you’re not riding the wave of them bouncing back at you, when we have our own momentum and it’s stopped by a quiet audience member who doesn’t want to play, that’s when we feel tired.

D: Yeah.

S: Whereas today, we sold out again, so I’m looking forward to -and when that happens, I think, we both come off, both, quite buzzy.

D: Yeah absolutely. And actually this morning I reflected, so we’ve had what, eleven days straight without a break, and only three more to go.

S: Yeah that’s right

D: And actually that’s fine, it’s fine, a final way to spend a bank holiday weekend.

S: So yeah we’re fine.

D: Yeah we’re fine, we’re fine. (laughs) Hope that answered your question.

So how has the response been? I know you’ve been performing The Vanishing Man for a while, but The Extinction Event is pretty new?

(more…)

MICHAEL RAJASINGAM: AN AWKWARD MAGICIAN WITH A LEMON

☆☆

As he admits in the title of his show, Michael Rajasingam is awkward in An Awkward Magician with a Lemon.  Luckily for the audience, it is a relatable, humorous type of awkwardness that adds charm to Rajasingam’s performance.  Rajasignam spends plenty of time in his show allowing this humor to take center stage.  His magic tricks are entertaining as well, although perhaps not so consistently, and he does occasionally have trouble combining the comic and magic aspects of his performance.

There are several points in the show in which Rajasingam successfully combines his magic tricks with his performance.  The recurring motif of the lemon is a fun acknowledgement of the title of his show.  In an unrelated moment, Rajasingam takes the time to tell a sweet story about his family as he performs a coin trick.  This unexpectedly heartwarming routine is a break from the overall awkward humor that nevertheless harmonizes well with the rest of the show.

Unfortunately, Rajasingam’s performance of his other tricks is not always so impressive.  There are a few times that he is noticeably distracted from the thread of his show to focus on getting a trick right.  At other times, his sleight of hand is lacking, and his props might be visible at the wrong times.  Both of these flaws simply require more practice to perfect his skills and integrate them with his performance.

The awkwardness of Rajasingam’s performance allows his relationship with his audience participants to develop a little bit more easily, as it is difficult to feel conspicuously awkward when standing on stage beside Rajasingam.  Audience participants quickly feel at ease.  Rajasingam is kind to those who he invites to join him, using them to demonstrate his tricks while still ensuring that they get to see the full extent of the magic.

While Rajasingam’s performance is not perfect, he is dependably entertaining and fun to watch.  He uses his awkwardness as a character quirk rather than allowing it to hinder his performance.  Rajasingam’s mistakes are only momentary, the overall effect of his show is delightful.

 

 

More information on Michael Rajasingam and his performance dates can be found here

DINO DORADO: EXPERIENCE

Dino Dorado welcomes his audience to Experience himself and his mind reading tricks in this show.  Incredibly enough he is even performing in his non-native language—Dorado is Austrian but his English is strong enough for an entire mind reading show.  This is extraordinary enough from a monolingual English perspective.  Dorado’s mind reading itself, however, is patchy.  He has difficulty recovering from a rough start, although he does, in the end, get himself back on track.

The rough patch hit Dorado at the very start of his show.  Dorado mis-read his participants’ minds on his first few attempted effects.  This is understandable, mistakes do happen.  Magicians are people too.  However, as a performer Dorado could have dealt with the situation a bit better.  He was visibly dispirited at each miscalculation, and seemed to lose a bit more of his performance persona at every misstep.  Dorado would have been better off keeping his performance energy high and keeping the audience engaged in watching him.

That being said, Dorado’s mind reading skills picked up as the show went on.  His spirits and energy picked up in direct correlation as his effects began to have more successful results.  By the time he managed to correctly determine two pieces of meaningful information thought up by two different participants, he had fully regained his enthusiastic energy and the audience’s wonder.  His early errors did have the beneficial side effect of making his later successes appear that little bit more impressive in contrast.

Once Dorado had gotten his mind reading back on track, his exuberant stage presence was able to shine.  All of Dorado’s audience participants—although perhaps especially his later participants, who he was better able to read—were made to feel welcome on his stage.  Dorado likes to get physically close with his participants of all genders, but his mannerisms make this playful and nonthreatening.

Dorado’s show was a mixed Experience on the evening that it was reviewed.  He could not consistently back up his requests for applause from the audience with solid magic, or even consistent showmanship.  However, if the latter half of his show is any indication, he does have the potential for a much better performance.

 

More information on Dino Dorado and his performance dates can be found here

BRANDON BARRETT: BRAIN ACCESS

Brandon Barrett is easily the youngest performer to be reviewed by this publication so far.  His initiative in taking the step of putting on an hour long Fringe show at such a young age in pursuit of his goal of working as a magician is admirable.  Brain Access certainly has its high points.  It is clear that Barrett has done his research by attending more established magicians’ shows—perhaps at times too clear, as some aspects of his performance feel a little bit too much like an imitation of other performers.  Nevertheless Barrett shows promise as a budding comedy magician.

The playful first trick sets the tone for Barrett’s show.  He simultaneously impresses the audience with his trick while joking about their expectations.  Barrett performs other tricks with character as well, including a mind reading trick that integrates his set design.  His finale is non-magical but dramatic, and features an interesting degree of audience participation, as Barrett allows an audience member to choose the soundtrack for his last effect.

Barrett describes himself as a comic magician, and he endeavors to give near equal stage time to his comedy performance as his magic tricks.  This often works to his advantage, as he has a lot of great comedy material, but he does joke an awful lot about his young age.  His emphasis on his age does have the perhaps desired effect of impressing the audience with his accomplishments relative to his youth, but as he belabors the point so frequently it becomes unwelcome.

In terms of magic, Barrett unfortunately has enough issues with his sleight of hand that the frequency of the props peeking out at the wrong moments is distracting.  Additionally, some of his mannerisms come across as forced.  It is clear that he is still working on his style.  However, these flaws are completely understandable given his age and level of experience.

While Barrett’s Brain Access has its flaws, these all come across as experience-based issues that a young magician like Barrett should have plenty of time to remedy.  Both his magical skills and performance persona would benefit from additional work.  But Barrett is on the right track, as getting out in front of a crowd is the best way to get this practice.

 

More information on Brandon Barrett and his performance dates can be found here

PAUL REGAN: ILLUSIONS OF DEPRESSION

Dangerous situations are relatively common in certain types of magic performances.  Usually, the magician at least tries to find the right balance to ensure that the audience does not feel too uncomfortable or worried about them.  In Illusions of Depression, Paul Regan consciously blasts right past those boundaries.  He does not do this solely for the shock value, but uses the discomfort that he creates to make his points about society as a whole and societal views of mental health specifically.  Regan starts his show with a trigger warning that is perhaps worth publicizing to those considering attending Illusions of Depression, that it does discuss themes of mental illness, self-harm, and suicide.*

Regan starts out relatively gently, performing his creative take on a classic dangerous magic trick.  He uses that trick and his enhancement of it to lead into his discussion of a bit of basic social psychology.  This is by no means an exhaustive lecture on the topic that he brings up, but he does present an admirably balanced view given the inherent time constraints of his show.  His performance becomes both more dangerous and more personal as it progresses.  He continues in his examination of societal issues, but also talks at greater length about his personal mental health struggles.

That being said, he has a few lovely moments.  An early sleight of hand trick becomes a charming analysis of the importance of interpersonal connections, and equally the importance of accepting that varying degrees of individual differences mean that some might stand out from a crowd more than others.  This is a delightful demonstration of Regan’s fantastic fusion of magic with the stories that he tells. Regan is also caring in his interactions with his audience—which is perhaps especially appropriate given his theme of mental health.  He generally requests volunteers, especially for the more involved participant roles.  Regan has an especially touching bit with one participant toward the end, using mind reading tropes in an especially conscientious manner.

There are a few issues in Regan’s sleight of hand work, with the odd prop noticeable at the wrong time.  This is occasionally briefly distracting, but his performance is multifaceted enough to cover for any such errors.

In Illusions of Depression, Regan uses magic effectively to make his case about mental health.  His dangerous stunts do often go further than is really necessary to convey this case to his audience.  The audience gets the impression that, to a certain extent, this excessive danger is included in the show for Regan’s benefit rather than their own.  If that is truly the case then I genuinely hope that Regan gets what he is looking for out of his run at the Fringe.

 

* Note: Paul Regan’s flyers do include a trigger warning.

Paul Regan can be found at Tolbooth Market during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:15 from August 24-25

More information on Paul Regan and his performance dates can be found here

GRIFFIN AND JONES: TRICKORICE ALLSORTS

Trickorice Allsorts is a delightfully punny show title, which is appropriate as magicians Griffin and Jones are like the human embodiments of a pun.  Their wacky slapdash style is perfectly coordinated and precisely executed.  The chaos that is ever present throughout the show may appear, at times, to be genuinely beyond their control, but by the end of the performance the audience is convinced that Griffin and Jones have always been in command of everything that happens on their stage.

The magic tricks that Griffin and Jones perform are not necessarily original in their fundamental structure, but the trappings that they dress them in express their characteristic style at every opportunity.  From the clown-like opening silent sequence featuring a newspaper to their tombola-themed memento recovery trick, their performance is consistently unpredictable in its silliness.  The magic itself is performed accurately as well, and many reveals provoke involuntary exclamations of astonishment from the audience.  The triumph of their tricks is perhaps even more impressive as it is presented against a background of apparent pandemonium.

Griffin and Jones can only pull off this wacky style so well as it is paired with such precisely executed tricks, but these factors are brought together so successfully because of their energy and chemistry.  The show that was reviewed ended up having a relatively small audience, but this had no apparent impact on the larger than life comedy that Griffin and Jones brought to the performance.  They bring this energy to their interactions with their audience participants as well.  If they do tease on occasion, it is gentle enough that it only serves to make their participants feel welcome in temporarily joining them on stage. It is also so lovely to watch Griffin and Jones bolster and bounce off of each other with such genuine support.  The audience gets the impression that that real trust between the two is the true foundation for their success on stage.

Griffin and Jones are fantastically ridiculous performers as well as skilled magicians.  Trickorice Allsorts is, as suggested both by the pun and by Griffin and Jones themselves, a bit of a mixed bag of random magic tricks.  However, in quality, style, and sheer concentrated silliness, Trickorice Allsorts is consistently remarkable.

 

Griffin and Jones can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 19:50 from August 23-26

More information on Griffin and Jones and their performance dates can be found here

BEN DALI: TRANCE OF A LIFETIME

One thing is clear from the title of Ben Dali’s show, Trance of a Lifetime: his amazing commitment to terrible puns.  He has, in fact, had three years of Fringe hypnotism shows with similarly pun-based titles, which he lists at the start of this show.  All of them are equally fantastic.  The actual content of his show provokes more mixed reactions.

Unlike many hypnotist shows that ease the audience into things with some mind reading, Dali heads straight into the hypnotism.  He also limits his hypnotic participants to volunteers who choose to step on to the stage at the start of the show, rather than attempting to hypnotize the entire audience.  This is a great way to ensure that his participants are fully willing—although arguably even if he had gone for the whole audience approach he would still only get willing participants, as the unwilling would fight the trance state.  It did leave him open to unsuccessfully hypnotized participants playing along for fun, and indeed several such individuals left the stage at various points in the show.

It is perhaps unimportant that several participants played along in the show for a while as Dali’s methods for demonstrating his hypnotic influence are entirely based on getting his participants to put on a spectacle for the remainder of his audience.  This often involves getting them to perform actions that are presumably so embarrassing that they would be unwilling to go through with them if not for the hypnosis.  It does at times, however, almost feel like a caricature of hypnotism at its creepiest and most manipulative.

To his credit, Dali is careful to ensure that his hypnotism is only extended to the consenting adults who have chosen to step on to his stage.  At the reviewed performance, two young girls were mimicking the participants as they entered the trance state.  Dali took the time to check on them and establish that they had definitely not fallen under his sway.

Dali’s comedic hypnotism is a specific style that, if his crowds on a Tuesday evening are anything to go by, is very popular.  He is certainly good at what he does.  It is likely that those who attend his show in the hopes of being hypnotized, or gawking at those who have been, will not be disappointed.

 

Ben Dali can be found at Liquid Rooms Annexe (Venue 276) during the 2018 Edinburgh Fringe at 22:00 from August 23-26

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