free fringe

A CASE OF WONDERS BY SAM FITTON

☆☆

With a promisingly exciting premise, “A Case of Wonders” opens on Sam Fitton running through the train station, only to miss his train. He then falls asleep waiting for the next train, and enters a dream world where magic is real. The performance continues in this realm to showcase Fitton’s sleight of hand and juggling tricks.

Fitton’s show includes many high points. His magic tricks are frequently well performed and fun to watch. His pantomimed vending machine is a particularly creative means to incorporate his train station theme with classic coin tricks. Once the character that he performs overcomes his initial fear of his new environment, Fitton’s rapport with the audience improves noticeably. While a few of his interactions with audience volunteers feel a bit mean spirited, with the audience encouraged to laugh at their peers for not following Fitton’s vague instructions, Fitton rewards his volunteers with refreshments as he leads them back to their seats.

Unfortunately, the promising premise itself runs into a few performance issues as well. The extended introductory sequence feels a bit too long, without much of note happening. Fitton’s pretend surprise to be transported to a magical alternate reality is rather too exaggerated as well, making him appear genuinely uncomfortable to be performing in front of a crowd. Additionally, the Case of Wonders itself feels under-used, considering its place in the title of the show.

Many of these flaws may be significantly mitigated from a more childlike perspective. Fitton’s exaggerated acting and teasing of his volunteers seems like the sort of thing that would play much better to an audience full of children. This is no small thing, entertaining children is notoriously difficult. Many magicians give up on it entirely and only aim their shows at an adult audience. Fitton’s child friendly act thus establishes this show at the heart of an important niche of family magic.

“A Case of Wonders” is a perfect show to take young children in need of a bit of morning entertainment to. From an adult perspective it is not without its flaws, but is still solidly fun and admirably creative.

 

More information on Sam Fitton and his performance dates can be found here

#DAVE: CULT OF DAVE

☆☆☆☆

It can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint why people choose their line of work, but Dave Alnwick does not leave his audience guessing why he became a magician: he wants you to join his cult.

In his “Cult of Dave” show, Alnwick makes the case for why he should be accepted into everyone’s hearts and minds as a God. He does this by performing his mentalist tricks and then giving the audience tips on how they can use the theories behind those tricks in their everyday lives. If they join his cult, he promises, he will teach them all of his skills.

This tutorial style makes his show especially interesting to watch. Alnwick reveals just enough to give the audience a greater appreciation for the difficulty of what he does. Some of his lessons do feel useful—advice on how to force a choice, or tips on how to tell whether or not someone is lying—although it is clear that these skills work best in the hands of a naturally charismatic individual like Alnwick.

It is that charisma that really makes this show fun. Alnwick has a great wit and charm that makes him entertaining to watch on stage, regardless of what he is doing. Even when he asks multiple members of the audience to choose numbers in preparation for his impressive final trick, he makes this potentially dull groundwork into an enjoyable part of his performance. He is the kind of performer who could probably make reading the dictionary into an entertaining show.

Alnwick does run in to the same problem as many other Free Fringe performers, in that the venues they perform in often have issues with outside noise permeating the main theatre. However, Alnwick reacted to this professionally and did not allow it to derail his show, and his excellent vocal projection was certainly appreciated at that juncture.

The “Cult of Dave” is a delightful show, both for magic enthusiasts and for anyone who just enjoys comedic live theatre. Alnwick skillfully controls his audience, creating impressive illusions while dispensing life advice in an incredibly fun performance.

 

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

CHRIS COOK: CONTROL

☆☆☆☆☆

In his show “Control”, Chris Cook speaks a lot about not feeling in control of his life, and even says that he does not have complete control over what will happen in that show. But this is only partially correct- Cook quickly captivates his audience, and easily controls their full attention for the entire hour of his set.

Cook primarily performs sleight of hand tricks, and these are reliably inventive and surprising. It is a testament to his abilities that when he made a mess of a tomato that he ate onstage and took a moment to clean his hands, one almost expected he was about to reveal a new, uneaten tomato from the wreckage. His real tricks, however, are even more impressive.

Control includes many timely political references that both ingratiate Cook with the more liberal members of the audience, and help tie his tricks in to the story line of his show. Whether it’s a quick joke about mourning the death of the European Union, or Cook taking the time to read from and criticize Donald Trump’s book before using it as a prop in his next trick, the show decidedly favours the political left. American members of the audience in particular might be especially satisfied to find that Trump’s book does not emerge unscathed from its role in the show.

While the majority of Cook’s show does focus on sleight of hand, he does veer briefly into mentalism in an unexpectedly heartwarming final segment. His more serious themes are predominantly present as an undercurrent for the rest of the show, but here they take centre stage. Cook captivates the audience with his tricks and wit, and then uses that control over his viewers to instill his message of hope and motivation.

Cook’s “Control” is an excellent show that is definitely worth watching. Cook’s magic is creatively and skillfully performed. He excels both in performing big impressive tricks, and in creating small surprisingly magical moments in between the main illusions. In the end, it is his modesty that is particularly charming. Rather than using his considerable charisma solely to control his audience for the duration of the show, he gives that control back by inspiring us to exert what control we can over our own lives.

 

More information on Chris Cook and his performance dates can be found here