The Vanishing Man

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Until August 27th (14:10) 

Pleasance Courtyard

Script: four-stars.png Stagecraft: four-stars.png Performance: five-stars    


The large space at the Pleasance Courtyard had a tall ceiling giving an echoing effect and a big stage already promising something great. The two actors/magicians began with full on, pacey energetic dialogue. We were immediately involved in the show, being selected from the audience and told exactly what to say, word for word. The story of the show revealed a sad tale of the great loss of a close and dear friend of Simon, the hypnosis magician. It became endearing when we were told that the story was in fact true. As Simon appealed to ours and his fellow performer David’s sympathies the show continued. The dynamics from the first scene; where, through magic tricks, power (which they called improvement) grew in our minds for the extent of the hour of the performance.

The plot involved an examination of ‘the Vanishing Man’, a famous trick among magicians, and  exploring the nature of magic by performing tricks universally performed throughout the world. But this wasn’t just a magic show because once they’d done a trick, sometimes with assistance from the audience, they then proceeded to use logic to break down what seems to be impossible. They compared knowledge with the conundrum of adding truth to belief. If they showed us a card trick, it would be to advance the story and take us back to the Vanishing Man, everything came back to that. The famous Edwardian conjurer, Hugo Cedar was known as the Vanishing Man. On London Bridge he created the perfect trick and then before the very eyes of his audience, proceeded to disappear forever.  The audience imagined the vanishing, but it can be explained by suggesting that it was done using trap doors.

This show moves along at a grand pace, with the duo constantly commenting on how little time they had. Everything was multi layered and unexpected and drew us ever deeper into the unravelling of the plot, coupled with tributes to magic and magicians. It was like a greatly organised lecture holding the audience enthralled. We were convinced when they told us categorically (if there is such a certainty) that robots kill the imagination, where technology can perform tricks too. And the spectacular side of the show did not disappoint, at times taking on an almost circus-like quality of excitement.

This was no plush David Copperfield-type show – the props at the Pleasance were bare and minimal. A true play like this earned its stars by being a tribute and dedication to magic. Magic tells you everything without telling you anything, with the proposition of power the deep truth they called improvement was believable in its magical suspension. With this fine contribution to the great world of magic the words were written with texture, character and a close eye on small details. They portrayed themselves as magicians who portrayed themselves as actors all of which was turned into magical fact and mysterious fiction, another irony for the illusionist. This was more than roll up roll up this was something more; strong and all-encompassing, finishing in a theatrical bow.

Daniel Donnelly

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Posted on August 19, 2018, in Fringe 2018. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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