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Home arrow Archive: Earlier Fringes arrow Archive: Edinburgh 2011 arrow Ali Cook - Principles and Deceptions
Ali Cook - Principles and Deceptions
Published on Sunday, 14 August 2011

4 stars

Gilded Balloon Teviot (venue website)
3-9, 11-16, 18-29 Aug, 9:30pm-10:30pm
Reviewed by Richard Stamp

 Recommended for age 16+ only.

Ali Cook must be one of the best-known magicians currently at the Fringe – look out for his super-sized mug on posters across the city – but surprisingly, this was the first time I’ve seen his full show.  It didn’t disappoint: there’s showmanship and skill, a few moments of wonder, and a few quieter surprises.  Only a slight lack of pace, and a couple of questionable jokes, detract from this solidly entertaining hour.

Cook’s stated aim for the show is to include an example of every type of magic, a laudable ambition which does create a sense of marginal imbalance across the act.  The show is book-ended by a couple of Vegas-style spectaculars – complete with over-amplified music and (admittedly modest) pyrotechnics – against which, the quieter middle segment fades a little from view.  But the big tricks fully justify their inclusion, especially the disappearing-woman finale, which seems straightforward at first but builds to a genuinely startling and utterly bamboozling conclusion.

Ironically though, it’s the lower-key moments which impressed me the more.  One routine, based on a likely-fictitious tale about Harry Houdini, might be designed to vex those who think they know how this stuff’s done: it starts simply enough, finding a signed card that’s been hidden in a deck, but grows more and more complicated as Cook repeats it over and over again.  The revelation of the most unexpected possible object inside a rolled-up £10 note was another highlight, but all this close-up work suffered a little from the size of the room – it lost some of the “wow” it could have had if it had happened right in front of my nose.

It’s wrong to describe Cook as a comedy magician, since the magic is very much to the fore, but he has an engaging and cheeky patter which works well in this late-evening slot.  His humour is occasionally edgy, a welcome distinctive feature which raises him above the anodyne.  In my sternest critic’s voice, though, I must pass comment on the tired and tasteless lampooning of particular medical conditions which emerges from nowhere in the middle of the act.  The gags weren’t by any means the most gratuitous examples of their type, but they still felt stuck in the 1970’s – rather like the parody cruise-ship magician (Cook in disguise, of course) who so wittily opens the show.

All in all, while this wasn’t quite the high-octane show I’d expected to see, it fully justifies Cook’s reputation at the Fringe.  With skill, good humour – and a surprisingly large number of variously glamorous assistants – Cook put on a crowd-pleasing act that seemed appreciated by everyone in a very mixed Thursday night crowd.  Expect to be entertained and, at least on occasion, genuinely amazed.  And I’m already looking forward to Cook’s inevitable return next year.

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