Fake Magic

This was a show that promised to push magic in new directions: based on this evidence, I think I’d rather they took a step back.

Curated and hosted by Vincent Gambini the show saw four acts perform over 75 minutes, a duration that could have been halved without losing much. What magic there was was entertaining and well executed – there just wasn’t enough of it.

Richard McDougall stood out as the best performer of the night, with a fun opening act mixing mime and magic that saw his attempts to smoke a cigarette sabotaged by lighters, matches, and fags that disappeared, appeared, and multiplied apparently all of their own accord. His second appearance featured two simple tricks – one promoting therapeutic charity Breathe Magic – that were classic, charming sleight of hand pieces.

Tim Bromage performed a traditional rope and metal ring illusion, but with the twist of him wearing a face mask throughout and taking up the majority of his slot performing a folk song on acoustic guitar. I’m still not clear what either had to do with the textbook trick.

Chicago-based sensory illusionist Jeanette Andrews made a digital appearance, narrating (and possibly starring in, though we never saw her face) a short film about the Fluxus art movement, culminating with a whole audience trick involving a shortened deck of cards handed to everyone as they arrived. This parlour trick was neat enough – if more a mathematical quirk than magic – but the slow build up wasn’t worth the payoff.

Self-described as a “performance artist and liar”, Tom Cassini’s finale act essentially consisted of him breaking glass and then walking over it, then breaking more glass and lying down in it, presaged and accompanied by some portentously delivered but actually nonsensical guff about believing and drowning. Whether or not you regard these feats of endurance as magic, for me it’s this kind of overblown spiel that is the worst cliché of the self-involved magician.

Give me a rabbit out of a hat any day – I might even volunteer to be sawn in half.