ED2014 Columns ED2014 Comedy

Morgan & West: A subtle kind of magic

By | Published on Saturday 23 August 2014

As we head into the final Fringe weekend, how about taking in a magic show? What do you mean you saw a magic show earlier this Festival and you’re done now?

Morgan & West

You do know that’s the same as saying “I saw Frank Skinner, so I’ve done stand-up”. Morgan & West explain.

How can anyone come to the Edinburgh Fringe and see more than one comedian? Why would you want to see two different middle-aged men in brightly coloured suits, wearing fezzes, playing the banjo and telling jokes about their mothers-in-law or going to the doctor. Unless, the term comedian doesn’t mean that… perhaps comedy just means making people laugh and the way that is done varies from act to act? Surreal comedy, dry comedy, political comedy, whimsical comedy, aggressive comedy; different people will like different things, but it all falls under the umbrella of ‘comedy’.

Magic is about doing the impossible and making people gasp. There are no stipulations about telling jokes, or girls in boxes, packs of cards, snazzy jackets, it is just about doing things that your audience cannot explain. The problem is one of familiarity. While comedians can draw on their audience’s experience for comparison – “if you like Sarah Millican/Tim Vine/Stewart Lee then you’ll like this person” – magicians have very few references to draw on.

Unless you’re a clone of Derren Brown, Paul Daniels or Dynamo you find yourself a bit stuck when someone asks you what your show is like. We’re time travelling Victorian magicians doing a magic show set in our parlour. That doesn’t exactly fit the mould of “we’re like meets on ”.

Closely linked to this lack of familiarity is an issue of perception and preconceptions. Almost every magic show at the Fringe will contain a card trick. Almost every magician at the Fringe will describe their show as a blend of magic and comedy. Almost every magician at the Fringe will be wearing a suit jacket. It is perhaps understandable that audiences think we are all the same and mistake one trick using coins for another.

But magic doesn’t have to conform to the popular stereotype. There is only one rule – that you amaze your audiences. What a magician chooses to do with this, whether they surround their tricks with humour, or use them to tell a story, or convince you of an idea, these are the things that make a collection of tricks into a show. Thankfully, at this year’s Fringe, there are plenty of magic shows out there which offer something unusual and original.

So if you are interested in seeing a bit of magic this final Fringe weekend, why not try more than one, and see the range of shows available. Start with James Freedman at the Voodoo Rooms and catch this professional pickpocket in his show about theft and identity. Next up pop along to Just The Tonic where you can see Oliver Meech smash magic and science together in a rather delightful way. Follow this up with Peter Antoniou at Sweet Venues for a solid hour of mind reading and future predicting, and then if you still have a taste for it, may we suggest some smart, charming and utterly baffling magic in ‘Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks’.

‘Morgan & West: Parlour Tricks’ was performed at the Pleasance Dome at Edinburgh Festival 2014.

Photo: Steve Ullathorne