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S1L3NC3: Mind Reader
Published on Wednesday, 18 August 2010

3 stars

theSpaces @ Surgeons Hall (venue website)
6-7, 9-14, 16-21 Aug, 10:10pm (11:00pm)
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

“S1L3NC3 contains strong scenes of visual harm!” warns a solicitous poster, as we head into a blacked-out room at Surgeons’ Hall.  Hmm.  What it actually contains, as the film censors would put it, are scenes of mild peril: if it all went wrong, the worst that would happen to our fearless mind-reader is that he’d drink a glass of absinthe and staple his own arm.

But a bit of overstatement's always forgivable in the world of stage magic, where showmanship and a good gimmick count as much as sleight of hand.  The gimmick, in this case, is a simple but creative one: the tricks are all performed without speaking, introduced by a portentous back-story about being trapped amidst the silence of a ruin in Berlin.

The trouble is, keeping schtum doesn't make the magic any more impressive, and introduces a whole slew of practical problems communicating with the volunteers.  The solution often employed – to whisper in their ears – felt a bit like cheating; the flash-cards which filled in the rest of the gaps grew a little tedious, too.  And the whole damaged-by-unknown-horrors thing didn’t really fit the anonymous man on the stage, who actually came across as a thoroughly pleasant and well-adjusted guy.

Cutting out the patter, though, did throw a spotlight on the mysterious figure’s acting skills, which turned out to be pretty strong.  There’s a suavely laconic humour about the interaction with his “volunteers” – each summoned to the stage by a beckoning finger.  And the dreamy and slightly surprised expression he wore as he “swallowed” some razor blades was a thing to behold; that’s one stunt I normally can’t bear to look at, but this time I couldn’t tear my eyes away.

There’s a great act in the making here, but it hasn’t quite arrived.  Some tricks work brilliantly in silence, but for others, the gimmick just gets in the way.  Still, it was clear – from the gasps of those around me – that the young man known only as “S” had scored a hit with the surprisingly large Tuesday-night crowd.  And he signs off with style; pay careful attention during the show and see if you can spot the thread which links his tricks, revealed with a flourish at the very end.

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These are archived reviews of shows from the Edinburgh Fringe 2010.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to those we've featured, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.

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