Underground Venues - Barrel Room
7, 16 Jul, 8:30pm-9:30pm; 14, 21, 23 Jul, 7:00pm-8:00pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp
Magic? Really? enquires the title of this engaging show from Fringe debutant duo, the Wizards of Odd. Well actually, no, not really: there’s more banter than bamboozlement in the Wizards’ comedy-conjuring performance. But they’re funny enough, and straightforwardly amiable enough, that I’ll forgive them almost anything. Which is fortunate... but more on this topic later on.
There are some witty twists to the stage-magic standards which make up the Wizards’ act: their linked-rings trick, for example, produces hilarious images as they get more and more tied up in the chain they’re creating. One or two segments let the energy drop, but overall, there were far more hits than misses. None of their routine is particularly complex and I’d like to see them be more adventurous in their material, but that, I’m sure, will come.
The real magic’s in the interplay between the two self-styled wizards, Jonti Sparrow (the tall suave one) and Aaron Hayes (the rumpled ironic one). They’re instantly likeable blokes and it feels that they’re having genuine fun on stage, though they never fall into the trap of amusing themselves more than their audience. There’s a pleasantly self-deprecating modesty to their chatter, which works best when things go a little bit wrong – cheerfully mocking their own act’s occasional weaknesses, they encourage us all to laugh along.
The danger of doing so many gags about being rubbish, though, is that your audience might start to believe you. The fumbles, misplaced props and general sense of disorganization didn’t seem 100% planned – and magic’s one genre where it really doesn’t do to be ill-prepared. They can nail it when they choose to, all the same; the cleverly-synchronized opening routine went without a hitch, adding detail after detail to an inspired central idea.
But for everyone in the audience – well, everyone bar one – the highlight of the evening seemed to be a routine which has nothing to do with conjuring at all. Beware if you’re the hapless “volunteer” they call up a third of the way through the show; you’re destined to be clad in a mask and wig, then played for laughs as a human ventriloquist’s doll. It’s all good fun and it went down a storm with everyone… even the poor sap they’d picked out for the unexpected dose of kindly humiliation. Remember what I said about forgiving them? Yes, you’ve guessed it. That poor sap was me.