Edinburgh MagicFest

This year sees the fourth Edinburgh International Festival of Magic, and features an array of accomplished magicians, illusionists, escapologists and more from throughout the UK, Europe and from as far afield as Australia. I caught two of these performers last night, and going by these shows the standard is very high indeed. Australia’s Tony Roberts and Fritz with a Z from the Netherlands both devoted their performances to card illusions (much too sophisticated to be referred to as “tricks”) in the intimate setting of the Vault, where the audience is up close, leaving not the slightest margin of error in any sleight of hand that may take place.

Fritz was first up, the 6:30 start time for his show being ideally suited to a family audience, and his energetic, interactive improvisations were more than enough to entertain all ages (If I’d been 10 years old, I’d have been pleading with my mum and dad to take me back again the following night). His engagement with the audience started by throwing Angry Bird soft toys, getting whoever caught them to stand up and give their name before throwing the toy to someone else, the recipients becoming part of the next trick. His show also features a lemon which reappears at intervals in a glass on the table, no matter how many times Fritz either puts it in his pocket or throws it backstage in mock exasperation. The lemon features in the climax of the act to great effect, but I’m not giving away exactly how – that would spoil the fun.

He comes across as very personable and charming, and the risk that something might go wrong somewhere was highlighted when, during his attempt to guess the numbers that one of the audience was thinking as she played imaginary games in an imaginary casino, he got one wrong. This, however, just seemed to make the fact that he got the other two right even more impressive.

By comparison, Tony Roberts was considerably more laid back, with a demeanour that lent an air of sophistication to his act. I understand that he does a lot of street magic, and is an accomplished escapologist as well, but tonight was devoted to cards. Asking for two volunteers, one experienced card player and one who was not, he took us with their assistance through a succession of ever more impressive illusions – he has a habit of just when you think he has done something really impressive, he tops it with something that is even more so.

There is nothing flash about him, he’s just quietly impressive. And both he and Fritz made me want to go and see more of this festival. I hope it goes from strength to strength.

Jim Welsh