Magic and Variety Gala Show

Jun 28 2014 | By More

✭✭✭✭✩  Magic and Music Hall

Royal Lyceum Theatre  Friday 27 June 2014

Sleight-of-hand, stagecraft and comedy combined to make an entertaining gala opening to this year’s Edinburgh International Magic Festival.

Max Guito. Photo credit Zakary Belamy

Max Guito. Photo credit Zakary Belamy

Such contrasting approaches to magic were on display that there was no chance for anyone to get bored. And if you didn’t like a performer, there would be another one along soon enough.

Two of the faces most familiar to TV viewers showed the diversity of acts on offer. The Real Hustle’s R. Paul Wilson provided some vintage use of distraction and close-up magic, while John Archer from CBBC’s Help! My Supply Teacher Is Magic was part of the music hall-styled double act Archer and Smith. Their escapology routine, leaning as much on humour as on illusion, was beautifully done and genuinely funny.

American Rob Zabrecky matched them for stage presence. He showed an instinctive understanding of theatre which more than made up for much of his act being made up of a rigged ‘quiz show’ which seemed a little easy to work out.

Further variety was provided by Neil Kelso and Ainsley Hamill’s turn, with magic decidedly taking a back seat to music on this occasion. Accomplished as their songs were, it was a mistake to have them opening the second half. A clearly signalled melodic interlude midway through the second half would have been welcome; as it was a large section of the audience were clearly nonplussed and many of its younger members somewhat restless.

“An engaging style and winning presence…”

Colin Cloud’s mind-reading act cannot avoid reminders of Derren Brown, but he is a natural performer who will undoubtedly go far. His easy humour and natural rapport with the audience means he can carry it off even when his chosen victims do not appear to have listened to his instructions, while an ability to tell that someone originally lived in Straiton but moved to Bonnyrigg in childhood from a ‘hello’ is impressive however it is done.

Ainsley Hamill. Photo Credit MagicFest

Ainsley Hamill. Photo Credit MagicFest

Two European performers overcame any language barrier by presenting wordless displays of illusion. Young French magician Max Guito has an engaging style and winning presence. However, billing your act as ‘cutting edge’ and ‘using modern technology’ means that each routine can have a very short shelf life – already a number based around manipulating CDs and DVDs can look quaint rather than up-to-date. The use of displays on a laptop as part of the sleight-of-hand, furthermore, required split-second timing that was not always in evidence.

There were no such problems with Barcelona’s Xavier Tapias, whose constructions out of items of rubbish may not have been the most apparently sophisticated of illusions but demonstrated real theatrical flair.

There is no doubt that the best was left to last. Korean magician Lukas stood impassive as he performed breathtaking manipulations of balls, cards and handkerchiefs, at once satisfying most people’s ideas of what magic should be while producing something understated and quite poetic. As with the rest of the show, there was no danger of him overstaying his welcome.

The only drawback to mixed-bag nature of the show was that it rarely felt like a cohesive whole. This was perhaps not aided by the role filled by compere Nigel Mead. While it is understandable to have plugs for other festival events, this seemed to take up too much time; reading out tweets from the audience seemed even less necessary. If he had been allowed to be the accomplished presenter and magician he so obviously is, the whole thing would have had greater impact. As it was, however, there were some genuinely impressive moments and it acted as a tremendous advertisement for the Magic Fest as a whole.

Running time 2 hours 15 minutes including interval
Royal Lyceum Theatre, Grindlay Street, Edinburgh, EH3 9AX
Run ended. Magic Festival runs until Friday 4th July 2014

Magic Festival website:

Preview of Magic Festival at


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