The Voodoo Rooms

PBH BEST OF MAGIC SHOW

The PBH’s Best of Magic show, hosted by Chris Cook, featured a different lineup of magicians at each of its three performances.  This review is of the third and final performance, and it was a fitting finale to a Fringe full of incredible magic.

Cook was the perfect choice to host this show.  His love for magic shone through each and every one of the glowing introductions that he gave his fellow magicians.  After watching him juggle getting the crowd excited for each act, helping out in various ways throughout the performances, and performing his own magic tricks when the occasion called for it, it is easy to see why Cook has found success in the hectic realm of performing at private parties.  His unflappable cheeriness at every juncture held the show together.

The show kicked off with Aaron Calvert, a mind reading magician whose main show culminates in hypnosis.  Here, with less time, he focuses on the mind reading, using an audience member to choose numbers on a die for him to figure out.  Calvert’s commanding presence kept the audience mesmerized by his feats.

Next up was the delightfully creepy Ava Beaux.  Her Edgar Allan Poe themed show was reviewed here on one of her first performances, and she has only improved over the course of her time at the Fringe—she certainly had plenty of performances in which to do so, as she proved to be so popular that she had to run her show twice a day to satisfy her fans.  Beaux’s performance persona had consistently been one of her strong points, and even that had developed further; she was fully committed to her darkly comic character.  Beaux is reminiscent (if she would permit a more modern comparison than Poe) of Lemony Snicket, of “A Series of Unfortunate Events” fame.  Her magic tricks were appreciably neat and polished, and she kept up the flow of her act to seamlessly incorporate her illusions.

Following Beaux came a properly comic interval, featuring Tom Crosbie.  Crosbie’s main show included a variety of mathematical and Rubik’s cube based comedy.  Here he focused on the Rubik’s cubes, showing off his quick solves, and tricks like solving the Rubik’s cube while it was in midair.  While Crosbie does not do what one would consider a quintessentially magic centered act, his set was entertaining and provided an interesting change of pace.

David Narayan came next, with his own take on mentalism. He also brought along a taste of the magical history lesson that featured so prominently in his main show, The Psychic Project.  Also similarly to his main show, he kept a twist for the end—which, in this case, featured an unusually exciting wardrobe change.  Narayan’s performances at this Fringe have been heavily informed by history, but it is such characteristic personal flourishes that truly set him apart.

The show wrapped up with a final set by Dave Alnwick, another magician who has proved incredibly popular this year.  His wallet-based trick, featuring multiplying yellow fluffy balls, was a fun and playful way to end the show.  Like in all of Alnwick’s performances, his charismatic personality kept the audience engaged regardless of what he was doing on stage.  As Alnwick is also an amazingly skilled magician, the audience was captivated.

This performance of the Best of Magic show featured a wonderfully skilled lineup and stellar performances from every entertainer.  Each one of these performers are exceptional in their own right, and watching them perform on the same stage was a delight.

ELLIOT BIBBY: MAGIC MOMENTS

Elliot Bibby performs his limited edition “Magic Moments” show just a few times over the course of the Fringe, making it quite the hot commodity of Fringe magical performances. This fun and fast paced show incorporates a range of both mind reading and sleight of hand illusions, making for an overall enjoyable evening.

“Magic Moments” is a particularly flashily theatrical experience, which sets it apart from many of the more subtle Fringe magic shows. It is easy to see that he took inspiration from Las Vegas, where he confides having spent time performing. Bibby’s opening mind reading trick is an amusing start to the show. He add the nice touch of calling upon several audience volunteers to come to the stage as a group relatively early on in the show, making their role in the performance less intimidating to take part in. The success of trick in particular is dependent on the volunteers’ choices, but Bibby is adept at using what is given to him to keep his audience entertained.

Bibby continues through a varied selection of card tricks. He frequently asks audience members to sign a card of their choosing, as insurance that he is not using any multi-deck trickery to make his magic tricks easier—a fairly common practice that Bibby seems especially fond of. The variety and fast pace of Bibby’s card tricks make this an especially lively segment of the show. One segment that perhaps goes on for slightly too long involves a recorded narration of the trick that Bibby attempts. As the entire joke of this section seems to involve poking fun at Australian accents, it feels increasingly slightly uncomfortable as it continues to linger on. However, gentle cultural mockery aside, Bibby’s humor is lighthearted enough to consistently resonate with the audience, and keeps every moment as magical as promised. Bibby ends the show with a final, excitingly performed card trick to a dramatic sound track, a fittingly flamboyant conclusion to his show. 

“Magic Moments” is a worthwhile show to experience, marked by the pleasantly flashy performance style that Bibby brings to the Fringe. His magic tricks are expertly and entertainingly performed, delighting all his audiences. 

#DAVE: LITERALLY THE BEST MAGICIAN

Some magicians favour subtlety. Dave Alnwick is, unapologetically, not one of them. In one of his shows, he asks his audience to worship him, and in this, his “Literally the Best Magician” show, he seeks to prove that he has earned that title. “Literally the Best Magician” has had an incredible run so far at the Fringe, with daily queues down the street—the Voodoo Rooms even had to set a start time for the queuing, as people were turning up to see Dave well over an hour before the show’s start time.

Alnwick performs a huge variety of tricks to prove his magical superiority, from sleight of hand tricks to mental magic. A mentalist highlight from “Literally the Best Magician” is when he has volunteers draw on white boards and then matches up the drawing to the person who drew it. One of the constants across Alnwick’s performances is his incredible charisma. While many of his tricks are uncommon and intrinsically impressive, he does include a few of the more traditional ones in his bid for ultimate superiority. In his capable hands, these basics are just as engaging. Alnwick also consistently teaches his audience a few of the magical fundamentals, which is an enjoyable way for the audience to feel involved. In this case, he instructs us in some basic sleight of hand. Learning the principles involved only gives the audience a greater appreciation of Alnwick’s skills.

It is worth mentioning that the multi-talented Alnwick has written a choose-your-own adventure book, that also includes instructions to learn magic tricks, which he sells at the end of each of his shows. For Alnwick’s fans, his magic does not have to end when his show does.

Is Alnwick really “Literally the Best Magician”? Spectator chatter certainly swung in his favour by the end of the show. Members of his audience could be overheard comparing him favourably to Derren Brown. Ultimately the question is best answered by every individual for themselves, but it is definitely very enjoyable to watch Alnwick state his case. “Literally the Best Magician” does not try to tell a story, or inspire anything in its audience except for a love of Alnwick. But it is ridiculously fun to watch, and sometimes that’s exactly what you want.

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.