Champions of Magic 2016


Alex Jarrett for RIP Productions
Charter Theatre, Preston

The third such show of its kind in the region, in little more than a month, proves there’s more magic around than you can currently shake a wand at.

Maybe it’s a dividend of TV’s insatiable talent hunts, and this show certainly returns the compliment with a stage set and big screen backdrop that owes more than a little to television production values. In its clever, and tricky, combination of the folksy approach with the fantastical, it’s also as complete a variety entertainment as seen in some time.

The appeal of magic across ages, gender, culture and ethnicity was also evident in a near-capacity crowd within the ideal proportions of the Charter Theatre. Even the close-up routines are projected, for all to marvel at, on the big screen.

The Champions themselves may make a motley crew, but they share a charm and undoubted ability in their own individual skills.

International Stage Magician of The Year Edward Hilsum, for all his youth, has some of the old-style delivery of the largely-mute magician and also proves himself a young master of misdirection.

Mentalist Alex McAleer seems to mess around in the mind as much as Derren Brown and delivers the same astonishing personal facts back to members of the audience. The sound system may not have been quite as sharp as his trickery but who cares when his friendly informality extends to interval selfies with theatregoers in the foyer?

Likewise the near-legendary Fay Presto is not afraid to work the half-time audience in the same way, besides effortlessly serving up her take on seasoned magic ring or rope tricks.

Only a seasoned professional could sit at the stage edge and dumbfound one young fan, or baffle an entire family as she appears to plunge a bottle clear through dad’s chest.

The BIG tricks are saved to last, but come served in a spoof Las Vegas style, complete with a sultry silks performer, by grand if apparently guileless illusionists Young and Strange.

Theirs is actually a highly-sophisticated comedy double act delivered with faux naivety. It ends in a conjuring climax that will be seared on several retinas as well as memories... and left someone at Preston Guild Hall with a lot of Hoovering.

David Upton