FESTIVAL THEATRE, EDINBURGH ***
WHEN you're in a theatre with a notebook, people commonly ask if you are a critic. Saturday was the first time anyone's asked if I were a magician. It seemed an unlikely idea until headline act Paul Daniels got the magicians in the audience to stand up. There were loads of them.
They were there not only to see Daniels pay tribute to the Great Lafayette, the illusionist who died when a fire consumed this very stage on 9 May, 1911, but also for a whole weekend of magic-related activities.
So, yes, it's not inconceivable I could have been making notes to figure out how Daniels got the ball beneath the cup and how the ball turned into a lemon. A scholar of magic would also have been studying the illusions he dusted down to evoke the era of the Great Lafayette.
Crediting the magician Fred Culpitt, he made an assistant appear in the middle of an empty doll's house. Name-checking Harry Houdini, he added a Scottish flourish to the substitution trick, ending up in a different part of the theatre to the sound of Scotland the Brave. In a grim memorial to the events of a century ago, he lay in a burning coffin and ended up as a charred skeleton.
The lovely Debbie McGee hammed it up ?and the audience shouted out Daniels's catchphrase for him. It was cheesy, old-school stuff, in an amiable kind of way – with the best saved till last. In the middle of a card trick, Daniels's two audience volunteers were suddenly propelled from their seats, then just as mysteriously stuck to them. That was no illusion. That was actual voodoo.
© Mark Fisher 2011
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