Edinburgh International Magic Festival

THE SECRET GIFT

☆☆☆☆

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.

MAGIC FEST CLOSING GALA: LEVITATIONS

☆☆☆

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.

THE SECRET ROOM AT THE WRITERS’ MUSEUM

☆☆☆☆

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