Edinburgh International Magic Festival



Disclaimer: The “real” review of MagicFest’s Christmas show can be found here. But, we had an extra reviewer in Edinburgh keen to see the show, and once upon a time a reviewer joked to our Editor-in-Chief, “hey what if we did drunk reviews for shows as second reviews” and, terrifyingly, our Editor-in-Chief took this joke seriously. Enjoy! 

I went to see the secret gift. A MagicFest production for the Christmas season. Kevin Quantum is the compare and has come on in leaps and bounds since I saw him hosting  MagicFest. Edinburgh is the stage back drop and there are lightbulbs hanging from the ceiling and the whole theatre is beautiful to start. Admittedly, as I am drunk reviewing my first thoughts are “Pretty… why am I here? Oh yes, Magic!”.

Kevin made champagne from thin air, then introduced “The Art of Illusion” a Scottish illusion team. Male and female. Steryotypical magic tricks, woman in box disappears; but I have never seen that done before and it is breathtaking. They are an attractive pair, strong and able, and perfectly suited to the stage. The magicians assistant did not shy from the spot light. The one area that could have used a different trick was between sets the male magician pulled a long cord from his mouth, from my perspective all I could think was “TAPEWORM”!” I think there needed to be a break but something different to a tapeworm could be used.The show focused around using sex to distract from what was going on. A clever trick in some respects.

The next act is the hilarious Professor Kelso. He has a Shakespearean excellence about him. His voice, his act, it is all hilarious before the magic starts. He says he is a hypnotist, no! a magician no! a mind reader! No!  Magician! It is a great beginning. He has the costume and the voice and the act. But then he moved to cheap fortune telling. That could have been different. He has so much going for him but I found the reading of the audience dull and unrewarding. Well done, after 20 questions you have the correct answer. He has a lot of talent to be on the stage but needs to move away from fortunes. You are not a grandmother Professor Kelso!

There was an act before the interval from caberet rather than magic but let me tell you! It is magical to me! My mind is blown. The Bubble Poet came on stage with his act, and though I know what is happening, it is amazing! He is a stage artiste! He can make magic happen before your eyes in coloured smoke and dish detergent. Phenomenal.

After the interval Kevin worked his magic with his introduction, then brought on stage a rather interesting Spaniard by name “David Blanco”. By this point I was somewhat intoxicated and found David to play on his race rather more than necessary. He was a slight of hand magician who also performed card tricks. Inticially I thought “typical, playing on suggestion, and playing on accents” but he is very amusing. And very good at what he does. He uses his “foreign-ness” to his advantage.

Professor Kelso is back on stage to perform the “12 days of Magic”. He is so good at the piano it is a shame to see him go to waste filling time like this. It was caberet but not especially special or interesting. The “12 days of Christmas” or whatever is done! Move on. Kelso is an excellent character who deserves lots of time in the sun performing interesting pieces for the mind, not for the child.

Kevin came back and performed a hilarious piece about mind wandering. Where is the ball? Here or here? Used sexual tension as a joke which seemed cheap but followed up with pure quality misdirection. He misdirected you here, so you didn’t notice the misdirection over there. Very well done. Huge amounts of showmanship, and I would like to learn a trick or two from you. Producing lemons! Amazing!

Finally “The Art of Illusion” came back on stage. A winner to begin but now at the end (after a few drinks) it’s clichéd and over done. The beautiful assistant being your distraction, really!? I’d like to see the same show performed with a man. It was well done, steryotypical tricks, which I think modern theatre is lacking. But what modern theatre is also lacking is equality. Wearing leather boots does not equal tiny Santa costume. You are good at being a magician. Don’t diminish it by being a sexist.

Overall a wonderful show. I saw MagicFest and this was a level beyond. Well done, well performed.




The stage at the Traverse Theatre sets the tone for the Magicfest Christmas Special “The Secret Gift” with a lovely silhouette of the Edinburgh skyline, featuring hanging lights appropriately reminiscent of the enchanted candles of Hogwarts.

The show is hosted by Kevin Quantum, who weaves Christmas cheer through the evening with his between-act entertainment.  His commitment to the Christmas theme in each of his appearances is admirable.  Quantum is at his charming best when interacting with his audience participants, and holds the attention of parent and child alike with his engaging misdirections.

The first act to take the stage is Chris de Rosa and his glamorous assistant in The Art of Illusion.  This act features many classic magical effects, with the two surviving a variety of seemingly fatal situations. This pair excels at coordinating their turns in the spotlight to support each other’s performances.  De Rosa and his partner return to the stage as the final act of the evening, with a more festively themed take on their signature style.  Their closing trick is a suitably playful end to the program.

Professor Kelso follows with a decidedly more comedic form of magic.  While his sleight of hand and mind reading clearly delight the audience, it is his fantastic character that keeps the audience laughing during his time on stage.  Kelso is the other performer who appears twice in the show.  His second performance is a break from the usual course of the show, featuring Kelso leading the audience in a sing-along of a Christmas carol that he has re-written to a magic theme.  This level of audience participation lends a pantomime atmosphere to this portion of the evening.

Another break in the usual course of magic comes from Señor Pérez, who is not a magician, but a bubble artist.  Neither properly magical nor especially Christmassy, Pérez’s bubble choreography is nevertheless enchanting.  His ephemeral creations prove truly captivating to watch.

The final magician, David Blanco, performs a series of card and coin tricks.  His decision to perform these tricks in a relatively large theatre may initially seem questionable, as both are more commonly performed for smaller audiences, but the dimensions of the theatre, and Blanco’s clever use of the largest coins available, means that his tricks are still relatively visible from the farther side of the audience.  The commendable scaling of close up magic for a larger audience in this act allows this show to demonstrate a wide range of magic styles.

The variety of acts in “The Secret Gift” makes for an exciting evening. The show seems especially popular with families with young children, and the performers successfully cater to the range of age groups in the audience.  The overarching festive cheer of this show successfully extends the magic of Christmas well beyond its usual temporal limits.



This year’s Edinburgh International Magic Festival celebrated the end of its week of events with the MagicFest Gala: Levitations.

The event was hosted by the charming Kevin Quantum, a magician with international experience from Fife, Scotland. Kevin Quantum performed several bits of magic himself between acts. In a heartwarming gesture of inclusivity, he made a point of inviting children from the back section of the theatre to be the participants in his magic. Kevin Quantum’s engaging presentation of the acts as well as his between-act performances integrated the range of acts into a cohesive showcase of magic.

Cubic Act opened the Gala with their mysterious floating box. Their graceful choreography and whimsical illusions were wonderful to watch. Alan Hudson followed with a comedic magical act. In contrast with the other acts, which were performed to music, Hudson chatted with the audience throughout his performance, and provided the comic relief of the first half of the show.

Next up were Les Chapeux Blancs with their delightfully stylized performance. On the stage lit only by a composition of small bright lights, the two magicians, dressed in white, climbed up the air, into the ground, and in and out of sight as if they could jump in and out of reality. The contrasts of the props and costumes with the dimly lit stage, combined with the precision of the magicians, gave this act an otherworldly atmosphere that is surely enviable to other magicians.

After the interval, Bertox took to the stage with his spinning rings. His distinctive take on juggling was captivating and calming in an almost hypnotic way. Aaron Crow then brought along his romance-themed magical stunt. Crow was impressive in the precision that he brought to his act and delightfully humorous in his silent mannerisms.

The final act, Marko Karvo, featured infinite scarves that produced infinite birds. Karvo was styled as a prototypical magician, dressed in a tailcoat and accompanied by a glamorous assistant. His act might have felt outdated if it weren’t so skillfully and elegantly done, but Karvo’s evident ability and flair made this an engaging performance. Unanticipated entertainment was provided by his largest and most brightly colored bird, which decided that it preferred to perch on the exit doorway at the back of the theatre rather than in the cage that Karvo had obligingly conjured for it.

The MagicFest Gala was a lovely celebration of both the Edinburgh magic scene and global live magic performance. The range of the performances was a wonderful demonstration of the diversity of modern magical acts, and Kevin Quantum’s enthusiasm radiated optimism about the state of magic as a field, making the closing gala a triumphant end to a week of magic in Edinburgh.



At ‘The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum’, the show kicked off outside the beautiful Lady Stair’s House with a few card tricks and a history lecture. This was to become a running theme throughout the evening. Three magicians were placed in writer-specific rooms in the museum, having each prepared a short presentation on their writer, and, of course, a magic show based on themes taken from that writer’s life or body of work. The audience was split in half on arrival, with attendees being handed either a red or black playing card, to better squeeze everyone into the relatively small rooms.

Renz Novani, the “Poet of the Impossible”, presided over the Robert Burns room. In between reading some Burns poetry and some of his own Burns poetry, Novani performed both mentalist and card magic tricks. His elegantly playful magic in combination with his enchanting spoken word performance made for a wonderful show. Novani’s evident passion for poetry and the magic of language made him a particularly suitable magician both for this event and more specifically for the Burns room.

The Sir Walter Scott room was filled by Ewan Callison’s flamboyant personality. While his larger-than-life persona may perhaps be better matched with a larger venue, he put together a combination of historical storytelling and primarily mentalist magic that flowed well with the intentionally small audience. That effectively assembled show proved to be entertaining as both a magic show and a comedic act.

The magician who welcomed the audience with the previously mentioned outdoor performance, Chris Cook, performed in the Robert Louis Stevenson room. Cook’s enthusiasm for the nautical themes- taken from Treasure Island- gave his series of sleight of hand tricks a sense of direction and cohesiveness, while his enthusiasm for performing magic imbued his performance with joy. Cook’s magic stood out as exceptionally astonishing, and left several members of the audience still expressing their amazement as they made their way out of the museum.

The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was an enjoyable evening of magic and history. It may not be for everyone, as some might prefer their magic without a literary lecture, but this reviewer loves a good history lesson. The venue and quasi-educational approach broadened the appeal of this event beyond the usual magic fans. This show, and presumably the other Secret Room events, showcased a select few of Edinburgh’s many tourist attractions in a decidedly different way than your standard daytime excursion. The Secret Room at the Writers’ Museum was a worthwhile visit both for magic enthusiasts and for those looking for a whimsical tour through one of Edinburgh’s most fascinating museums.


Runs Mon 3 July – Thur 6 July 2017 as part of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival; Lawnmarket, Lady Stair’s Close, Edinburgh EH1 2PA



The musical interludes of Colin Cloud’s Edinburgh International Magic Festival show were borrowed directly from modern adaptions of Sherlock Holmes, something I remarked to my friend “is that even legal?” I’m sure it is in actuality, and what they prove is something the mentalist made no attempt to hide- he is obsessed with the fictional detective. However, something Mr. Cloud has mastered that that particular character would be utterly uninterested in was a masterful sense of showmanship. This, combined with his skill-homage to the detective, is the strength and power of his show.

But let’s take a step back. When the friend and I finally found our venue, 45 minutes early and flustered, the lobby was near empty. Which means that Mr Cloud, who was waiting there for audience members to arrive, approached us immediately. He presents himself as a very charming, sincere man. The ascetic people expect of those in his profession is not lost on him- his clothing choices were on point and stylish, but with just enough hair flair to say ‘I’m an individual’. (Hey, this isn’t a criticism. Always appreciate some hair flair. Everyone needs a trademark.) He introduced himself, and asked us to write some information on a sticky note that was on his clipboard- Full name, post (or in our heavily- American accented cases, zip code), where we worked or if we had a pet and it’s type and name, and a question and answer. All these were to be things he couldn’t find out through internet stalking and would be impressed if he knew. Keep this in mind- this is important. We then were instructed to keep our sticky notes.

The show itself was impressive, to say the least. The venue was small, but the seats were well filled, and Mr. Cloud knew how to utilize the space. One of the key things that I notice is not people who know the mental capabilities of their role well, but who have the necessary showmanship. And charisma was a strength in this case. Mr. Cloud captured his audience with humor, which carried him through any incorrect guesses or uncertainties in his routine. In fact the only problem I had with his set was due to his comedic attempts. Someone much teach, in Comedy 101, that sexist jokes will always work, because male audiences will always laugh if you say all women are good liars (twice. fucking twice), and the women are conditioned just to take it. I don’t blame Mr. Cloud as an individual for this- it’s a comedy staple. (I blame society, but that’s just the ranty feminist in me. I digress). This just seemed particularly out of place because perhaps a small majority of the audience members were women.

But back to what you’re here for. The mentalist acts included things like predicting the card a random audience member would choose, the ‘simple picture’ an audience member would draw, and the words on a page of a book audience members would pick. He knew the amount of money in another random audience member’s wallet, and could take the numbers that about five different people randomly thought up and multiply them to be the exact date and time as when he announced this feat. He also played a game in which he could guess which color button an audience member had hidden in his hand, and then which hand it was in. This involved having the participant in question imagine, essentially, murdering a popular celebrity in a vacation destination with a dubiously effective weapon. (You pretty much just have to see this for yourself, folks.)

At one point towards the end, Mr. Cloud has the lights turned off, with two audience members sitting next to him. holding his wrists to ensure he didn’t move from his spot. Then, he had the audience call out things, which he would focus in on. I was fortunate enough to be amongst his choices. When Mr. Cloud had us shout out our initials, he zeroed in on mine. He asked the person whose they were to make ourselves known, but there were two of us with those initials, so he said the person with the ‘foreign sounding name’. This is pretty funny in that perhaps to native Brits, my German- sounding name is noticeable. But I’m from the US. 80% of names sound foreign- it’s not really something you notice. But okay, he remembered the name itself. Things moved along. He then attempted to determine where I was from, and he was close! Very close, which I told him. He wanted to know how close, which was problematic, as I am incapable of estimating distances, even ones I’ve traveled thousands of times. Now, I don’t know if Mr. Cloud was intentionally wrong so that he could get the correct answer later and I thwarted that by not knowing that Torrance is aprox. 10 miles from Palos Verdes or if he simply didn’t know- something I’m getting to. He also correctly determined I have a cat named Fae and wondered what to do with my life- whether I should join the Navy.

All of the information leading up to this could be found on my facebook, if you really cared to look. I’ve done more in-depth fb stalking than that. However, I’ve only discussed my intentions towards the Navy with 3 people, and in private settings. So yep, pretty amazing.


Colin Cloud- talented mentalist, fantastic theatricality and rapport with audience. GO SEE THE SHOW. http://colincloud.com/

Mentalist abilities: 4/5

Showmanship: 5/5

Overall: 4.5/5