Tragic Magic

Jul 2 2014 | By More

✭✭✩✩✩ Promising fusion

The Scottish Storytelling Centre, Sat 28 June – Fri 4 July 2014

Part of the Edinburgh International Magic Festival, this one man show by Michael Neto fuses together magic with theatre in the story of a man who has to make a choice between the thing that he loves and the one that he loves.

Tragic Magic publicity image

Tragic Magic publicity image

It’s a story about magic and a girl. Alan Sparks is a man who lives for that spark of confusion and amazement in people’s eyes. These elements are certainly what Neto, his designer and portrayer, succeeds to create in this theatrical magic show.

Ultimately in the story Alan has to make a choice and unfortunately it seems so too does Neto. Does he want to show impressive magic or does he want to create good Scottish theatre? Tragic Magic fails to make the grade as a magic show or a piece of theatre, leaving instead something in-between that feels like a compromise. That said, however, it is a pleasant and humorous compromise.

The story is simplistic and, aside from Neto’s cheeky and endearing delivery, the characterisation is lacking and fails to convey genuine motivation for Alan’s actions. There are moments of charming anecdote woven throughout, that encourage a reminiscent smile. However, the complex emotions intended in the piece sit slightly too far out of grasp: the intent is there, but the writing fails to deliver. Neto’s delivery is also somewhat disjointed as he tries to weave the magic in while still telling the story.

“A certain sense of charm”

The magic too is simplistic and lacking in mystery. With the exception of a genuinely surprising moment with an egg, the turn of the tricks are too often revealed – changing the extraordinary back into the ordinary.

Magic is all about misdirection, but to succeed in amazing the audience, the magician must be slick and deft of hand; disappointingly this is not always the case. In places, there is the feeling that this is intentional as Alan (or Neto) pokes fun at the tricks, but in other places, it simply isn’t as polished as you would expect.

Importantly though, Neto does manage to convey a certain sense of charm throughout the show. There are some beautiful and poignant moments of magic, with Alan’s piece de resistance being how he gets the girl in the beginning.

As a sum of its parts Tragic Magic is a fair attempt at a piece of theatrical magic, with enough humour, charm and beauty to keep you entertained, but both magical and theatrical elements need work to make it feel more than a compromise. Throughout the show there is a fundamental struggle of concentration between the acting and the magical performance. The underlying question is whether it is possible to excel at both within a one man show?

Ultimately as Alan himself concedes, you can’t make it all better by magic; more substance is needed to make Tragic Magic a convincing piece of theatrical magic. However, there is a lot of potential and with some work this formula could produce a promising fusion that makes us believe that anything is possible.

Running time: 50 minutes
Sat 28 June – Fri 4 July, 7.00pm
Scottish Storytelling Centre, 43-45 High Street, EH1 1SR
Tickets from: Magic Festival website:


Tags: , , , ,

Comments are closed.