Review: The Edinburgh Fringe Magic Gala ****


Cabaret and Variety

The Edinburgh Fringe Magic Gala

Gilded Balloon Teviot, v 14

16.30 (ends 26 August)

**** (4 stars)

I started off pretty sceptical but by the end of the show I was willing to concede that what I saw was magic – how on earth some things could have been done, I have no idea, but the evidence of my eyes was that it did happen, and the only explanation seems to be that it was MAGIC….

Each afternoon the Edinburgh Fringe Magic Gala features different magicians from among the possibly hundreds appearing at this year’s Fringe. I thought I’d go and sample what was on offer, not being a magic show aficionado, simply curious to see what was on offer. My heart sank as we entered and awaited the beginning of the show, as the volume of noise pumping out of the speakers was sufficient to deafen, rather than to provide a warm and encouraging ambience in which to marvel – but other people didn’t seem to mind quite so much: maybe they, unlike me, are uncomfortable with silence, and perhaps need loud music to enable them to feel that they are enjoying themselves…

Our host Elliot Bibby bounded on to the stage and attempted to whip up a storm of applause by teaching us how to applaud, to whoop, and to cheer, and then to combine all three. He picked on members of the audience, to whom he would refer each time he reappeared – one man in particular, a magic show virgin, was appealed to after each to give a score out of ten. It was all done quite kindly, and no-one was humiliated, which was a relief. Sat on the front row, I was trusting that my Fringe lanyard would protect me from any attempt to involve me <phew! It worked>.

With hindsight, the four performers were brought on in “ooh!” order. Our first performer, Tomas McCabe, was competent but not particularly thrilling. He claimed to be a mind-reader and involved one audience member in a trick with potentially harmful effects – but no-one was hurt, and the chosen one returned to her seat uninjured. Tom Crosbie, a self-confessed nerd then came on stage, hoping to engage our sympathy for his nerdiness before dazzling us with tricks with a Rubik’s cube, that irritating toy of the 1970s which drove us all made or caused us to die of frustration or boredom before we managed to return it to its pristine, one-colour-per-face state. Polly Hoops then came on stage to dazzle and astound us with her extremely agile gyrations with first one, then two, three, four, and finally a sizeable number of hoops. Our host, Elliot, gave us a demonstration of card tricks, inviting a different audience member on stage to assist him, before introducing our final magician, Ben Hart, who had us amazed from start to finish of his act, and deserved the positive storm of applause which greeted his finale.

It was an entertaining hour. I don’t think it’s made me into a magicians’ groupie, but I enjoyed myself – and from the sound of the applause everyone else left feeling very well entertained too.

Mary Woodward