Kevin Quantum

MAGICFEST GALA: FAST & FURIOUS

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MagicFest’s gala this year is themed Fast & Furious, and is notable for its scarcity of traditional magic.  The host is the one self-described magician of the ensemble—although, to be fair, he is joined on stage by an illusionist troupe.  This works to the gala’s advantage simply because inviting a wider range of entertainers allows for more options in putting together an interestingly varied show.

Kevin Quantum returns to host the gala.  Perhaps in acknowledgement of his status as the only traditional magician of the evening, Quantum does a fair amount of magic in between the main acts.  His assortments of tricks are a disjointed jaunt through the world of magic that keeps everyone well entertained in the transition times.  He has a considerate rapport with the audience, using a combination of volunteerism and random selection to choose the participants that join him on stage to ensure that as many eager viewers as possible get their chance in front of the crowd.

Like many magicians, Javier Jarquin’s act uses a lot of playing cards.  However Jarquin is not a magician, he is the Card Ninja, so rather than stealthily manipulating his cards he demonstrates methods for throwing them.  Despite his variety of throwing methods, this may get a little bit repetitive for some audience members.  Jarquin’s enthusiasm and audience interaction help him continue to engage them.

Tom Crosbie’s Rubik’s cube themed performance is next on stage.  His Rubik’s cube solves are fast, and his cheerful chatter of stories and facts—nearly entirely about Rubik’s cubes—matches the speed of his hands.  Crosbie creates different solve situations, alternately tossing his cube to the audience to get in mixed up and keeping it in his own hands to show off his quickest solution methods, to get the maximum mileage out of his single cube.

The illusionist company Magus Utopia splits their act, performing the first half directly before the interval and the second half at the very end of the gala.  This is an effective format for them in this particular show, both to increase the suspense of their story and ensure that their numbers and theatrics do not overwhelm the other performers.  Illusionists are a staple of traditional magic, but Magus Utopia’s fantasy aesthetic aligns them with modern trends in popular culture, and the emphasis on the plot of their act gives new life to old magic tropes.

The audience returns from the interval to MC Hammersmith, a freestyle rapper comedian.  Such a large proportion of his spoken comedy relies on stereotypes that this does make his act occasionally feel outdated, despite his youthful appearance.  However, his freestyle rapping is exciting to witness, as he creates connections between random audience suggestions incredibly rapidly while maintaining the rhythm of his rap.  The improvised comedy of his raps is creative and fresh.

The final performer of the gala is James Freedman, a professional pickpocket.  His skilled demonstration of pick pocketing techniques was enhanced by one of his audience participants, whose absolute astonishment at seeing his possessions in Freedman’s hands gave the rest of the audience a glimpse into what it might feel like to have their pockets picked so thoroughly by Freedman’s nimble fingers.  Freedman proves his mental as well as manual dexterity in an impressive identity theft bit that feels fittingly akin to a magic trick.

MagicFest’s Fast & Furious gala includes an admirable assortment of acts over the course of the production, and it draws strength from this variety to build a lively show.  The diversity of the acts ensures that there is something for everyone.

WIZARD WORLD GATHERING

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MagicFest’s Wizard World Gathering has incredible potential as an event.  Harry Potter is obviously hugely popular, and magicians are ideally suited to bring the magic of Harry Potter into the muggle world.  There are certainly elements of the Wizard World Gathering that rise to the occasion.  The décor is incredibly detailed, the food and drink vendors have an admirable commitment to the theme, and framing the magic shows as “lessons” is an excellent way to create Hogwarts magic from stage magic.  However, the magicians themselves do not feel consistently committed to the Harry Potter theme, preventing it from being a cohesive event, and a few issues in the arrangement of the night detract slightly from its success.

The magic shows begin with R Paul Wilson’s “Expert Magic”.  From the start this is an outlier to the claimed theme, lacking in relevance to Harry Potter.  But to his credit, Wilson’s act itself is suitably entertaining; displaying his range of coin tricks and pickpocket-based card tricks.  Wilson may have misjudged the venue when planning one of his final tricks, which features him and several volunteers seated around a table.  Due to the layout of the theatre this is difficult to see, even from the middle of the audience.  The final effect is nevertheless impressive.

Kevin Quantum’s “Levitation Demonstrations” has an appreciably more Harry Potter theme.  Quantum takes a science fiction approach to this fantasy world, framing his show as his quest to discover a scientific means to levitate.  One of his tricks involving audience volunteers is really more of a trust exercise than a proper magic trick, which makes it all the more remarkable that Quantum is able to seamlessly include it in his act.  Quantum’s act feels less like a collection of tricks and more like a coherent theatrical production, with an admirable blend of his own magical style with the theme given to him.

“Time Travel 101” with John Henry Blackwood unfortunately often feels more hindered than helped by its theme.  Blackwood spends an inordinate amount of the middle of his act on a trick involving a toy plunger that is charming enough in and of itself but is only very loosely related to his own time travel concept.  However, he begins and ends with tricks that do genuinely use his theme to enhance the overall effect.  The stickers on the trunk that he uses as a table and the deathly hallows charm on his clothing are a lovely nods to the aesthetic of the evening.

Magic aside, there are a few issues that came up with the Wizard World Gathering itself.  As attendants enter the Assembly Roxy they are handed tickets with a couple of timings of the magic shows, but it is not explained that it is necessary to bring the ticket to that show time to be guaranteed a seat.   Many who were new to MagicFest took these timings as suggestions or reminders, and in the absence of an official explanation it fell to those who had attended previous similar MagicFest events to explain the system.  Also, in spite of the online description of the event as a party, the event really still feels like a series of magic shows.  Not necessarily a bad thing, but not what one is led to expect. There are few other activities in the central hall, and some are unexpectedly shut over an hour before the end of the event.  Additionally the Harry Potter quiz, while fun, could have done with a few more challenging questions.

That being said, the attention to detail in the decoration of the venue is absolutely fantastic.  The central hall is decorated as the Great Hall, and includes an intricately set up photo backdrop.  The common room, where the quiz is held, features a wall papered in book-print, and the bathroom even includes a snake sticker by one of the taps.  These details create a delightful atmosphere that is a highlight of the event.  Creating the right atmosphere is so crucial to events like this one, and for its flaws there are moments when attendees at the Wizard World Gathering feel truly transported to Hogwarts.

THE SECRET GIFT – EXTRA (DRUNK) REVIEW

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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 SECRET GIFT

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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

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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.