For over 10 years I've spent most of August in Edinburgh at the festival and for five of those years I've been performing shows. Now working on a year on, year off system I took the opportunity to enjoy Edinburgh without the stress of doing a show and to catch up on what my magical colleagues were up to.
Six years ago I did my first Edinburgh fringe magic show, alongside me were maybe one or two others. Fast forward and there's now upwards of 20 shows offering to show you how the impossible can be made possible. In two jam-packed days I managed to cram in 11 different magic shows and was delighted at the quality and variation of the performances.
Magic is never about the tricks, sure they're important but it's the performance and performer, which is king. In Edinburgh you simply can't turn up and perform off the shelf tricks with off the shelf patter. You need to set yourself apart from your magical competition. That's what I always attempt to do and found the acts I saw this year each brought something new, original and entertaining to the craft of fooling the crap out of people.
There is nothing better than good magic performed live, right in front of your faces. Equally there is nothing worse than bad magic. So avoid the risk and take you pick from as many of these fantastical shows as you can fit into your schedule.
Coming back to Edinburgh year after year and keeping your show fresh takes some doing. Not only do you have a new audience to worry about but also those coming for repeat business who want to see that you're not resting on your laurels. Piff The Magic Dragon, Pete Firman and Morgan & West are now Edinburgh stalwarts and have upped their games to put on their best shows to date.
Piff The Magic Dragon and his adorably cute canine sidekick Mr Piffles attempt to find a princess in the phenomenally good Jurassic Bark. The surely dragon star of Penn & Teller's Fool Us has the audience eating out of his hand, or should that be paw, from the get go, and offers us magic as unique as his character complete with a show stopping finale. My favourite trick involves a playing card and some dog food... although the show also features the best use of a laminator ever seen on the stage.
Pete Firman offers more jokes and tricks, in a slick, well-crafted show packed to the brim with entertainment value, which fantastically shows off the star of BBC 1's The Magicians. A wonderfully worked show with the highlights including vanishing walnuts and a magical orange juice carton.
Morgan & West bring two shows to the Gilded Balloon. One a midnight special for just 20 people showcasing close up and intimate card tricks set around some captivating story. The other being their afternoon family friendly show, which delivers high production values and bucket, loads of enjoyment. The first two tricks alone are worth the entrance fee and are the sort of thing you could see Penn & Teller doing.
Making the decision to do Edinburgh is never easy, you know it'll cost you a lot of money, but for many performers whose home is normally corporate and close up gigs, the attraction to your own stage show is something which means the risk is very much worth it and all the newbies this year deliver the goods.
Rob James Magicana is a timeless and faultless show delivered with warmth and charm. Effortless and engaging, I heard a child leaving asking his parents to buy him a magic set. After seeing his magical orange tree I wanted to dig out mine.
Alan Hudson weaves delightful magic around the story of how he became a magician in an amiable and well constructed first show. He'll fry your mind with what he can do with cutlery and balloons.
Wet Paint Magic are back for their second year on the free fringe combining a live jazz band with nifty tricks and fascinating stories from Ben Hart and Neil Kelso. The pair enjoy themselves so much on stage that the fun is infections leaving the audience in a state of constant delight.
Doug Segal has moved from the free fringe to the Gilded Balloon this year with a mind-reading show in which he not only showcases his powers but transposes them onto a member of the audience. There are gasps and OMGs a plenty as he reworks some of the classics into a show, which it's impossible not to enjoy.
Finally Billy The Mime, although strictly speaking, not a magic act, offers a show as unique as any trick you're ever likely to see. Hilarious, heartwarming, cheeky, naughty he slayed me. He is truly a one off and is the act I told everyone I met in Edinburgh to see and like all the shows above, I say the exact same to you. Go support live entertainment and go see something that will blow your mind.
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