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Published on Sunday, 26 May 2013

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4 stars

Marlborough Theatre (venue website)
14-15 May, 9:15pm-10:15pm; 17-18, 23-25 May, 10:30pm-11:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Family-friendly. Suitable for all ages.

It’s called Stuperstition because he’s Stuart Lightbody, and he’s the South African conjurer taking this Brighton Fringe by storm. In front of a packed-out audience at the Marlborough, he plucked coins from the air, cards from the deck and secret words from the audience’s minds – and with his charming manner and faultless showmanship, it’s easy to see why he’s so popular.

Lightbody is slick and funny.  He rattles through his patter with practised ease, keeping his act zipping along and packing an impressive number of illusions into his hour-long routine.  He’s a master of the well-judged flourish – modestly understated, but beautifully sold – and there’s a good variety of material on display, ranging from mentalism to comedy to old-style sleight of hand.  And, despite his less-than-imposing looks and self-effacing style, he’s got what it takes to control an exuberant crowd… an essential skill for a late-night slot in a theatre above a bar.

In Lightbody’s affable company, we gasped as he predicted our star signs, laughed as he hoodwinked a hapless volunteer, and squealed – well, the people behind me squealed – at a convincing-seeming demonstration of telepathy.  But the trouble is, I’ve seen a lot of stage magic before.  In fact, I’ve seen a lot of these tricks before; a couple had twists which were new to me, but most were old chestnuts reheated.  And given that the magic isn’t all that fresh, I was looking for something extra: a theatrical touch, or a hint of subversion, or a truly engaging theme.

With that in mind, I felt Lightbody could have done more with his topic of “superstition”, which he tends to use as a springboard into self-contained tricks rather than a thread which runs right through his routine.  There’s an interesting moment when he debunks homeopathy, but it felt slightly disconnected, like a fragment of a subtly different show.  And while he’s likeable – very, very likeable – Lightbody doesn’t have a shtick to call his own; being sweet and charming and perfectly delightful just wasn’t enough to lodge him in my mind.

But, look, I’m a one-man tough crowd.  The real crowd, crammed in all around me in the Marlborough, lapped up this show – and to that group right behind me, who spent most of the hour speculating about how he did it: all your guesses were wrong.  It’s a warm, friendly, laid-back experience, and a good night out with some genuine bamboozlement thrown in.  But please don’t be satisfied with that, Mr Lightbody.  You’ve got the talent to be more.

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