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Piff-Tacular - Free
Published on Saturday, 15 August 2009

Magic dragon Piff is the creation of John van der Put, finalist at the Hackney Empire New Act of the Year 2009 and member of the magic circle, who has previously supplied conjuring effects to notorious magician David Blaine and the National Theatre. Piff is a grumpy performing dragon who suddenly cracks a deadpan joke or an illusion - and his show, Piff-tacular, is a true compliment to the Free Fringe Festival and its aims to give quality entertainment to those on a tight budget. Van der Put does this through trickery, jokes, interaction with the audience... and a series of interesting props.

When I was asked to see this show I was a little bemused, expecting an hour of a single joke - dragon does magic - being repeated. However, I was pleasantly surprised by Piff-tacular’s variety and sophistication. The act is aimed at different age groups, and is especially funny when jumping from children’s birthday party magic to the more adult deadpan observations. Piff also flirts with the young ladies in the front row – something a child’s entertainer should not be doing! This awkwardness adds to the hilarity, and the constant shift from grumpy child’s entertainer to excellent magician keeps the pace of the act going and the audience on their toes.

Van der Put is helped by a “mind reading fish” which unfortunately was the weakest link in this act; a long build up to a punch-line that fell flat. The use of props included a good video card trick, but a few problems with the smoke machine were the fault of the venue and not the act. I also felt that Piff’s swearing half-way through the show spoiled the illusion a little, and was inappropriate for some of the audience.

Piff-tacular is Jack Dee’s deadpan grumpiness, the magic skills of David Blaine and the tragic comedy of an angry children’s entertainer, enough to make brother Puff (or Steve) proud!

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