The Illusionists Festival Theatre

This spectacular production provides a slickly packaged evening out. Traditional showmanship is given a modern edge with dancers, live music and considerable pizazz. Close up shots of hands are projected onto a screen above the stage, so even if you are not in the front rows, you easily see the detail.

There are 7 performers who between them present a variety of illusions. There is a lot of traditional material here and one or two items are clumsily performed and even I (no expert!) could see the fumble. That said, most of the illusions left me wonderfully baffled as to how they were done and even the traditional material is polished up for a new generation.

From a cage suspended above the stage, live musicians disappear only to reappear a moment later in the aisle of the stalls. A woman in a box is cut in half and I still can’t work out how it’s done. More impressively a man is sawn in half with a power saw and both halves of his body move around the stage on trollies – amazing! How do they do that? I found Dan Sperry, the Anti-Conjuror a bit creepy and heard several people around me referring to him as the scary man and he does some pretty horrible stuff with dental floss and cotton thread which was new to me. He also presents more traditional tricks with doves appearing from scarves and pockets.

The Mentalist (Phillip Escoffey), does some ‘mind reading’ tricks and escapologist Andrew Basso emulates Houdini by escaping from handcuffs and padlocks while suspended in a tank of water.

But for me the star of the show by far is The Inventor, Kevin James. He makes a coin disappear and even as I was thinking ‘it will be up his sleeve or between his fingers’, he pushed up his sleeve and spread his fingers and it had vanished, only to reappear before I had time to blink. That was impressive but he goes on to astonish by coaxing a butterfly from a piece of paper and making it flutter free of his hands. He then works another piece of paper into a flower which levitates from his hand before transforming into a white rose for a girl from the audience.

Members of the audience are involved in quite a few of the illusions and towards the end of the show Jeff Hobson, The Trickster, returns half a dozen watches to people that he managed to collect them from undetected during the show. The format of this show is such that no one performer is in the spotlight for long so if you’re not spellbound by one illusion, something quite different will follow on to amaze and baffle. This show was in Edinburgh for one night only but The Illusionists 2 opens in Sydney in January 2014 so watch out for it coming to Scotland next year.

Val Clark