stage magic

TRICNIC

☆☆

Tricnic is a comedy magic show featuring twin magicians Kane and Abel who reject your preconceived notions of the props and common items magic is usually done with and instead perform with food. Tricnic is exactly what it sounds like – a picnic of tricks.

In terms of the tricks, the magicians do not do anything uniquely original or surprising, but that is forgivable in a magic show when the presentation is skillful and entertaining. However, in this regard they also struggle. Surprisingly, considering that they are twin brothers, Kane and Abel have a more awkward and stilted lack of chemistry than random strangers shoved on a stage together would. This uncomfortable dynamic is distracting from the show and means that even when the tricks pay off, it is hard to take any pleasure from them. Luckily, this magic show is situated next to a bar but that still wasn’t enough for some of the audience at the performance I attended, as some people slunk or even blatantly strolled out mid show.

To their favour, Kane and Abel are competent magicians, and their chosen shtick of a trick picnic is fun. Unfortunately, the bits that involve audience participation- which is most of them- the magical duo prove that they are just as weak at interacting onstage with people who aren’t related to them. In cases where poor direction leads audiences to fumble with what they are meant to do, they are mocked by the magicians. This is to be expected, but the lack of any true, connecting humor in their mockery makes it sound harsh and uncomfortable to the audience. It also means that the different tricks are drawn out to the point of feeling pained as Kane and Abel attempt to get the necessary participation accomplished. Even when they get there in the end, any true momentum and impact has been irrevocably lost.

Tricnic is a free show, and the idea of it isn’t bad at all. With more rehearsal with each other, and by adopting a more natural banter as their onstage patter, the brothers could probably get past their wooden interactions.and deliver an entertaining performance.

 

More information on Kane & Abel and their performance dates can be found here

Originally published here

COLIN CLOUD: KILLS

☆☆☆

Colin Cloud is the ultimate rockstar mentalist, or as he styles himself, deductionist. He has succeeded in cultivating the most intriguing aesthetic for himself, combining the Victorian mysteriousness of his idol Sherlock Holmes with his own flashy modern tech and dramatic reveals. The astoundingly talented showmanship he demonstrates means that even if his deductions should falter, the entertainment factor never will.

The first part of Cloud’s show consists of him deducing information about the members of his audience- personal or even secret information. There are some awkward falters in this bit, and it seems that truly accurate deduction might rely on being familiar with a large variance of nationalities, which is quite a challenge with the international crowd at the Edinburgh Fringe. However, he does not allow setbacks to disrupt the momentum of the show whatsoever, and brushes off the mistakes so easily and with such quick wit that you would almost believe it was intentional. As he warms up, as well, his powers of deduction kick in most impressively. Even though the shocked gasps of people having unspoken information revealed can never really get old, Cloud makes sure the show does not stagnate by filling it with many different methods of deduction. All with the same premise, but happening in unique and hilarious ways. Every time you think you know how he does it, Cloud immediately proves you wrong.

Just when it seems the show has ended, Cloud lights a candle and solemnly informs us of a new skill he has learned, a new outlet of his powers. What is the worst thing someone with Cloud’s particular talents could do? Well, it’s right there in the title of the show. Unfortunately, perhaps in a haste to become akin to the next Derren Brown, Cloud has premiered this trick before it was finished being perfected. There is a large amount of leading to make sure the audience understands the magnitude of what is about to happen, which would be acceptable if it weren’t for the fact that it never really happens. As far as presentation goes, this demonstration has no faults. It is slick and intriguingly tense. But if you’re paying attention, you will realize that there is no definitive payoff. However, the reality is, it would not be obvious to everyone in the audience, and that is to Cloud’s credit. Colin Cloud is a skillful pied piper of his audiences, and if he says “be impressed”, we will be. After all, nothing could be as impressive as his closing trick, where one deduction from the beginning of the show comes back around to prove that, ultimately, Colin Cloud is smarter than the rest of us combined.

 

More information on Colin Cloud and his performance dates can be found here

Originally published here

CHAMPIONS OF MAGIC

☆☆☆

Champions of Magic is the summer blockbuster of magic shows, or at least aims to be- it is the Avengers of magicians. It is not your average, every day magic show (if there is such a thing), where you have to commit yourself to embracing one style, one skillset of magic. Instead, you are given four different magic shows in one, meshed together in an unforgettable night of wonderment.

The first of the magicians to kick off the show was a young magician with an old-school style, Edward Hilsum, conjuring doves with impressive flair. The magicians cycled their acts through the night, so we saw him again a few times over the course of the show, but one of the particularly impressive aspects of two of Hilsum’s three sets was his ability to remain captivating with a wordless act. In fact, his talent at maintaining attention meant that I did not even realize he hadn’t said a word until several minutes into the show!

Following Hilsum’s fist set was that of Alex McAleer, the mind-reader. I’ve reviewed McAleer here before, from his Edinburgh Fringe show. Here he had a much larger stage, and one he managed dominate impressively. Mind reading more than any other form of magic relies on audience participation and response, and McAleer undeniably had the personability and flair to make the crowd comfortable and increasingly eager to interact. Over his sets he wowed the audience with his skill at seemingly picking thoughts and images straight out of their minds, knowing everything from a card they were thinking of to unexpected personal details.

Fay Presto took the stage next, taking what initially seemed like it would be the most standard magic staple into a completely different, funny direction. Doing classic magic tricks can verge into boring the audience, I have learned, but she turned this potential around into something unexpected, a delightful turn of magic refusing to take itself too seriously. Presto particularly excelled when including children in her acts, her encouragement making them visibly increasingly confident with being onstage and involved.

The final part of this show was done by the magician duo Young & Strange. Their act coming last was a commendable choice, as they provided a burst of silly, snarky energy. While bordering on ridiculousness, the dedication of the two in playing off each other absolutely worked. Young & Strange were the epitome of a big finish, pulling out all the stops with huge intimidating mechanics, bright lights, a sweet story, and a glamorous assistant.

Champions of Magic truly was a great show of astonishing talent. If any criticism can be found, it is not in their abilities, but in the cohesion of the overall show. The range of different specialties was a positive, however, the acts suffered in that it seemed not much effort had been put into segues. It made the show more fragmented that it needed to be, and displaced the audience’s energy. There was so much good to outweigh this problem, however, and Champions of Magic was a astounding, delightful show, all the magicians astonishing the audience in their own unique ways.

Champions of Magic will be continuing their tour with shows through the UK, venues and dates can be found here.

COLIN CLOUD: THE FORENSIC MIND READER

☆☆☆☆☆

Any act that incorporates Sherlock Holmes will always have my automatic affection. But the effortless ease with which Mr Cloud incorporated his fascination with the character is spectacular on it’s own merits.

One challenge of the Fringe is that which room you are in definitely sets the tone for your show. And some of the Fringe venues are a little bit shoddy, or even nice but unintended for the purposes they’re now being used for. I got that impression off the Just the Tonic room that Mr Cloud’s show was in. However, his minor additions manged both to blend with the initial surroundings and, for lack of a better phrase, “class the place up a bit.” The tightly packed audience (sold out!) combined with the backdrop, gave off the sensation that you could, in fact, have been transported back to the Victorian era, and found yourself in the fictional detective’s sitting room- both dubious but undeniably curious at what secrets you were wearing in your facial expressions that he would see right through to.

And as if straight from the pages of one of these stories, Mr Cloud delivered his astonishing skill. The audience was repeatedly stunned at the ability he had to seemingly pick thoughts right out of his participants heads- the word from a favorite childhood book, a random number they had only then decided upon themselves, an image chosen from countless possibilities recreated right in front of their eyes. All done with a practiced air of charm and just a little bit of impatient disdain for participants who had trouble following simple directions. After all, nothing could be more Sherlockian. His showmanship was thoroughly on point, softening the adopted affect of superior wisdom by sharing his audience’s enthusiasm.

For a tone so steeped in the air of mystery, Mr Cloud does not pretend to be psychic. Rather, he is upfront about the psychological background of the techniques he uses. He perhaps leaves out mentions of old-school mentalist trickery employed, but we are all here to be entertained. There is a certain thrill to being left bewildered, and Mr Cloud knows where to draw the line between explaining how he’s reading participants lies and leaving bits up the the audience’s baffled imaginations. The combination between his skill at mentalism and his clever wit and showmanship make The Forensic Mind Reader a brilliant and utterly enjoyable experience.

The last three days of Colin Cloud’s Edinburgh Festival Fringe run at Just the Tonic are currently completely sold out, but you may be able to snatch up returns a couple hours before the performances at 5:55pm.

 

More information on Colin Cloud and his performance dates can be found here

NEIL HENRY’S IMPOSSIBLE

☆☆☆

Note to all magicians: if you do a joke trick with a fake bunny at the beginning of your set, don’t leave it on stage. People will be distracted the entire time wondering if that bunny is going to become switched for a real one. Gotta say I’m a little disappointed.

Bunnies aside, Neil Henry presented an excellent show. His tricks were magic classics, but done with such skill and ease that even someone looking in all the right places wouldn’t see how they were being fooled. Even when presented with the challenge of easily confused audience participants, Mr Henry maintained his funny patter and kept his crowd laughing.

A particularly great moment of the show was the finale, at which point Mr Henry created legitimate concern and tension with his crowning act. Even though audiences who come to magic shows generally know that the magician has their show under control and probably won’t be harmed, Mr Henry’s last trick had people looking away and wincing- but definitely peeking through their hands.

This skillful control of the atmosphere showed the masterful showmanship Mr Henry had created even with his somewhat goofy persona, and certainty had audience members hissing ‘impossible’ afterwards as they squinted and poked at the cards onstage.

Neil Henry’s Impossible is on at Pleasance Courtyard at 3:50pm until August 25th.

RENZ NOVANI: SPELLBINDER- MAGIC AND MYSTORY

☆☆☆☆

I’m not a mentalist (yet?) but when I sat down at the beginning of Renz Novani’s show, I made a prediction. That prediction was that for his review I would be writing: “well, maybe Renz Novani is a good magician, but I can’t tell because I can’t see a goddamned thing except for the hair of the lady in front of me.” But like I said, I’m not a mentalist.

The room was tiny. Everyone was squashed together, and the rows of seats were only at two levels. The “stage” started right where the “audience” stopped, and it was tiny itself. But what could have been suffocating actually worked for the show.

Mr Novani’s affect was flawless for the space, and for his material. He didn’t try to be overtly theatrical, a choice that by making him seem bigger would have made the space feel even smaller. Instead, his show was like a conversation. We were visitors at Mr Novani’s, and he a kind host. And like any good host, he exuded sincerity, and seemed to connect deeply with his audience.

I’ve mentioned earlier that I as a rule don’t go onstage or interact in the acts I see. Well, I broke that rule last night. I didn’t plan on it, but the room was so small, I couldn’t exactly hide. And when I was picked, I just went with it. I was initially worried that my preexisting obsession with mentalism and fascination with the exact things he was doing would mess the show up because I was thinking so much, so I guess it’s a blessing that when I’m in front of crowds I lose the ability to think. I won’t go into too much detail about the trick itself, but all I can say is that I was amazed by his talent. At so many points I was tiny slivers of a whim away from making wholly different choices, and yet the trick worked- the prediction that Mr Novani had secured, earlier, with another audience member, was right. Because of choices that I made and numbers that the audience picked.This ability wasn’t limited to but one trick, either. He again and again left members of the audience dumbfounded with his mentalist ability and readings of their deepest wishes.

He genuinely had astonishing talent, and at the same time expertly presented his material in a manner that made a grim little room cozy and captivating. Combined with a brilliant finish, Mr Novani’s show really does leave you feeling weightless.

Renz Novani’s Fringe show is at Spotlights at Merchants Hall, at 8:40 pm until August 25th.

+Reviewer’s note: I left this show a little stunned, and not just because of residual nervous energy from being onstage. Of all the magicians that I’ve seen as of late, his particular talents were exactly everything I’ve ever wanted to study, understand, be. The beautiful mixture of clever tricks, calming but firm stage presence, and a deep understanding of and ability to work with human psychology is exactly what captivated me about this world in the first place. His ability to imbibe it with a sense of enchantment struck me on a deeply personal level. Also, I want to steal all his books.

 

 

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

BEN HART: THE VANISHING BOY

☆☆☆☆☆

It was magic like poetry. Not the script necessarily, not specifically, but how the storytelling interwove with the tricks. A “plot”, for lack of a better word, is always good in a magic show, but this was beautiful. Mr Hart did magic tricks, of course, but he didn’t make it a magic show in the sense you would expect. It was theatre, not theatricality. He turned tricks into something you can actually, temporarily let yourself believe is truly supernatural, and it was spellbinding.

The tale we were to follow is a mystery, harkening back to olden times, to days of magic past. A juxtaposition of his modern self and something form the depths of the century. Despite his young age, Mr Hart radiated a kind of wisdom when he settled into his storytelling reverie, lulling the audience into willingly suspending their disbelief, letting them hear the drip of phantom rain and the bewilderment of an unexpected, strange visitor at your door.

But it’s the 21st fucking century, folks. We’ve seen magic tricks, we know them well. We squint for hidden wires and when a twenty-something (I’m assuming?) beguiles us with dark tales, a little bit of our minds will stay modern despite, modern and skeptical. And he knows that. So when it’s been going a little too long, maybe, when you can’t stay under the comfortable romantic lull for much longer, he whips the act back, to silly, borderline risque (but covertly enough that he needn’t worry about kids in the audience) jokes, and to unexpectedly funny tricks.

And his tricks are beautiful as well. Falling naturally and elegantly within the narrative, he does confounding magic. At one point, he took a magic standard that I’ve seen countless times before, and changes it, in such a way that it invalidated everything I know about how the original is done in the first place.

But the truth of Ben Hart’s show is not the trickery, but the presentation. It is acts like this that make you remember why magic is so powerful in the first place. If you go to a lot of different magic acts- as one can easily do, as I am, here at the Edinburgh Fringe- you might forget that sense of awe in the attempt to deconstruct, to figure it all out. But it’s so important not to. Of course that desire will still stay, of course as you walk out and shake Mr Hart’s hand (can I just say I love performers who stick around to greet their audience after) and tell him how magnificent he was and wander off, your mind will be twisting and mulling and trying to work it out. But at the same time, and more importantly, you will be brilliantly and blissfully astounded and bewitched.

Ben Hart is performing at Underbelly Cowgate at 4:40pm until August 24th. Seriously, go see him.

+Extra point: It is about 40 minutes since I got out of the show. I literally had to write this all immediately, because the experience was so fantastic. Thank you for the ‘bloody’ tissue by the way, Mr Hart.

ALAN HUDSON: TRICK TEASER

☆☆☆

‘No secrets’ could be the tagline for this show. Considering the ‘mystery’ appeal that most magicians will make their living on, this is a bit out of the ordinary. Alan Hudson’s show is pure silly, happy, humble magic, and he doesn’t pretend to be anything more than exactly what he is.

And what he is is spelled out right on his flyer: a comic with a feel-good magic show. But it works because he does it well. He’s working in a small venue here at the Fringe, where he stands at the same level as the audience, only a few feet from them. No room for frills or secrets, it’s just you and the magician- and Mr Hudson is a funny, friendly guy. He manages to make his audience like him nearly immediately, with jokes that hint of self deprecation, stupid dancing, and purposefully see-through magic.

This is all particularly notable on the night when I went. Mr Hudson messed up a trick in a way he couldn’t salvage in the moment. But perhaps with the exception of the woman whose wedding ring was now missing, he still had the audience on his side. The attitude was of willingness to gloss past the problem, not to blame him for messing it up.

Perhaps not the guy to see if you want to be utterly astounded, but if you want to see some cool tricks and genuinely laugh for nearly an hour straight, Alan Hudson is the right choice.

Alan Hudson‘s Edinburgh Festival Fringe show is on at Gilded Balloon at 19:45 until August 25th (not on the 13th).