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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Buxton 2013 arrow Matt Pritchard: Extra-Sensory Deception
Matt Pritchard: Extra-Sensory Deception

4 starsReviewed by Richard Stamp
Underground Venues
Run ended

The Fringe these days is full of fresh-faced, smartly-clad magicians, eager to tell us that they’re “using psychology” to control their audience’s minds. What sets Matt Pritchard apart is that, when he says it, it’s absolutely true. Employing a glorious blend of showmanship and science, Pritchard’s family-friendly act is halfway between a conjuring show and a popular lecture; as a child, I’d have found him the coolest science teacher I’d ever had, and my grown-up self was pretty impressed by him too.

I knew we were in safe hands from the lovely high-energy opening, which saw a well-known trick with cords and scissors performed with impeccable panache.  Of course there’s some sleight of hand involved in that one, but soon we’d left the trickery behind for a foray into popular psychology – taking in optical illusions, word-association games, and a simple way to enhance your memory which you can try at home.  It’s a bold move to include this material in what’s essentially a magic show, but it works brilliantly well, and if anything serves to sharpen the impact of the tricks he performs later on.

Pritchard has a nice manner with his younger volunteers, and an easy-going humour which set his whole audience effortlessly at ease.  This is clearly a show targeted at families, but there’s no reason why unaccompanied grown-ups shouldn’t go along too; I’ve seen plenty of magic shows in my time on the planet, and this one still had plenty that felt fresh and new.

The show’s one weak link, I thought, was a lengthy trick based on poker.  To follow it properly, you had to know the basics of hand rankings – full house beats two pair, for example – and though Pritchard talked us through them, the weight of the explanation dragged the whole trick down.  It’s a shame to say this, because it’s a cleverly-designed and entertaining routine, but I fear the premise is just a bit too complicated for what’s generally a very accessible show.

Much better, I thought, was a brilliantly-constructed trick built round a game of rock-paper-scissors – which fed off the enthusiasm of the three young people called up to the stage, and delivered a quick-fire series of befuddlingly accurate predictions.  But these are just samples of the uniformly well-executed illusions which made up this jam-packed show.  Sadly I caught it on its last day in Buxton, so remember the name Matt Pritchard – and be sure you don’t miss him the next time he’s in town.

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These are archived reviews of shows from Buxton 2013.  We keep our archives online as a courtesy to performers, and for readers who'd like to research previous years' reviews.