mentalism

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

RENZ NOVANI: POET OF THE IMPOSSIBLE

☆☆☆

For a magic show, Poet of the Impossible is curiously light on magic, at least in the illusions sense.  Renz Novani’s poetry and storytelling share the spotlight with his magic tricks.  It is clear from the beginning that this is because Renz is a compelling performer, both with and without his magic. It does mean that his show might feel exceptionally niche—his best audience will be those who enjoy both magic and poetry—but those boundary-defying qualities also lend him a wider appeal, as a performer first and foremost over his role as a poet or magician.

In a fun twist on classic playing card trickery, Renz frames an opening trick by talking about his early days of learning magic out of books, and then having an audience participant read instructions from a magic book to guide him through a trick.  The audience feels as if we are taking part in this childhood anecdote.  But of course the instructions that are read out are incomplete, and the audience is still amazed to see the trick succeed.

Renz ventures into less conventional magical props with his use of tarot cards for a mind reading trick.  He does briefly use them for their intended purpose, while acknowledging that he himself is not a believer in such fortune telling.  When he finishes by using the tarot cards to reveal his mentalist trickery he dazzles the audience on his own terms rather than those set by the cards that he is using.

Poet of the Impossible winds down show by Renz telling stories about magic while performing the magic that he describes.  In one he describes a childhood dream about fairies fixing his broken toy while fixing it on stage in front of the audience.  He uses this to then draw a parallel between dreaming and watching magic, with both allowing for temporary escape from reality.

Renz’s graceful magic combined with his spoken word performance gently reshape his audience’s perception of reality while keeping us grounded in the real world.  While fans of both magic and poetry might get the most out of Poet of the Impossible, the elegance of his performance is enchanting to all.

 

 

More information on Renz Novani and his performance dates can be found here

BILLY REID – STORYTELLER

☆☆☆

In Storyteller, Billy Reid structures his performance around stories from his childhood, using magic to illustrate them and bring them to life.  “Illustrate” is perhaps the key word here, as aside from being incredibly well performed, Reid’s magic tricks are more often than not exceptionally aesthetically pleasing.

Reid sets this tone from his first card trick.  He starts it classically enough, with an audience participant picking a card that Reid then shuffles back in to his deck, but when the cards start changing to match the story that Reid tells, the fact that in the end he successfully finds the right card is actually the least exciting part of the act.  The artistic trend continues in Reid’s mentalist tricks, as he reads a volunteer’s mind by painting the scene that she is thinking of on a canvas on stage, his firm and decisive brush strokes keeping the audience engaged in trying to work out the final image.

Like all of this year’s solo shows at MagicFest, Storyteller is performed at the Scottish Storytelling Centre, and one of Reid’s tricks in particular would not look out of place in one of their exhibitions.  Reid uses a blank card deck that he has illustrated himself to tell the story of his love for Scotland in a trick that showcases both his magical and artistic skills.  This is a particularly inventive highlight of Reid’s beautifully creative show.

Reid’s tricks rely on audience participation just as much as any other magician’s, but Reid is notable in that he invites volunteers to step forward before randomly selecting a participant himself.  While both approaches have their merits, Reid’s worked for him in that his volunteers were visibly excited to participate, and the shyer members of his audience were presumably a little bit less stressed.  It is certainly more enjoyable to watch audience participants who participate enthusiastically.

Storyteller is a gorgeous production.  One of the personal details that Reid shares is that as a child he was passionate about his art classes, which is no surprise to his audience after seeing this show.  Reid smoothly combines his illustrative and performance skills into a remarkable experience.

 

More information on Billy Reid and his performance dates can be found here

LEWIS BARLOW – CARDS, COINS & MINDS

☆☆☆☆

Lewis Barlow chose a very straightforward name for his show—Cards, Coins, and Minds—and he does exactly what it says on the tin, performing a series of coin and card tricks and reading a few audience members’ minds.  The premise is simple, but the magic is enthralling.  Barlow performs to an audience comprised largely of adults accompanied by young children, and he easily holds the attention of all ages.

Barlow begins with a quick few coin tricks.  While these are entertaining enough, a few of the younger children were still a bit fidgety until he brought out the cards.  Using a younger audience member as one of his first participants was both a nice way to include that segment of the audience and perhaps helpful in getting them on board with sitting still for the rest of the show.

Following this is his mind reading, where Barlow continues to excel.  He has mastered the art of timing his preparatory work just long enough to build anticipation while not continuing so long that he loses the attention of the children.  He uses both cards and less traditional magic props to maximize effect, and finishes up with a wonderfully performed déjà vu themed card trick that leaves the audience amazed as we exit the theatre.

If there is one critique to be raised of Barlow’s performance, it is in his poor handling of young child shouting out that she wanted to have a go at volunteering in his show.  Considering his experience (Barlow has been a magician for twenty years, he tells the audience in this show) one might have expected him to have contingency plans prepared for audience interference.  Seeing this instance apparently catch him unawares was especially surprising considering how well he otherwise dealt with his younger audience members.

In Cards, Coins, and Minds, Barlow’s performance is both pleasantly straightforward and captivatingly complex.  Barlow’s gentle stage presence inspires audience trust, and his evident magical skill enchants the audience.  Cards, Coins, and Minds is an excellent piece of family magic to entertain guardian and child alike.

 

More information on Lewis Barlow and his performance dates can be found here

THE SECRET GIFT – EXTRA (DRUNK) REVIEW

☆☆☆

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

☆☆☆☆

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.

CHAMPIONS OF MAGIC

☆☆☆

The British have a long history of invading America, in so many different ways. But one of the most unexpected invasions to date (although this is perhaps up for debate) is that of the British magicians. Having spent several years touring throughout the UK, the Champions of Magic have arrived on US soil in an attempt to internationally stun and amaze and triumph, as any good champion should- and as these five magicians have.

Although a team effort, the strength of the Champions is not in any form of group chemistry or magic genre alignment- the Champions almost never share the stage (with the exception of double act Young & Strange) and they perform very distinct styles of trickery. No, instead, their power is instead in representing all the relationships an audience member can have with magic.

‘Magic as wonder’ is exemplified by Edward Hilsum, a remarkable magician with terrifyingly adept fingers. In his first act totally mute, and even after that quite reserved in patter, Hilsum still manages to create the kind magic that makes his audience fall similarly silent in enchanted awe as objects appear and disappear effortlessly in front of their eyes.

For Fay Presto, the relationship inspired is perhaps more ‘magic as nostalgia’ or even ‘magic as a cultural institution.’ The tricks are classic and the humor is dry, and a beat too sharp for the audience- although we all get the joke, albeit a few seconds too late, but if you can keep up Presto leaves you as amused as impressed with her magical manipulations.

The mind reader of the Champions, naturally, is responsible for ‘magic as a challenge’, perhaps the most engaging relationship of them all. There’s always something a little bit combative between magicians and the audience- the man or woman on stage is there to trick us, after all, and everyone wants to be astute enough to catch them in the act. But nothing is more tricky than when they can even see into your mind- as Alex McAller seems to do. Bouncing from knowing the cards you have to the item you’ll pick to the names and words safely stored only in your memory, McAleer’s effusive energy makes him impossibly charming despite the frustration he inspires by being far too clever. If McAleer wasn’t on the top of his game at the Waukegan, IL show, then he has far too much game for one man.

Finally, the most important relationship, ‘magic as the joke’, is supplied by Richard Young and Sam Strange. While most the Champions are funny in their own ways, Young & Strange take the humor of the art to a whole new level. Filled with a laddish arrogance that the audience is delighted by despite themselves, this duo purposefully makes their illusions utterly ridiculous but in the best possible way, throwing grand illusions at the audience while simultaneously refusing to take themselves even a tiny bit seriously.

The Champions of Magic, despite gamely sharing this triumphant title, are more accurately four magic shows in one. Although this does create a little stylistic whiplash, we are ultimately fortunate for it, for there’s something for everyone and anyone to appreciate in this artful, magical experience.

 

More information on Champions of Magic and their performance dates can be found here