The Fringe isn’t always the best place for magic. Large tricks are, by-and-large, impractical for venues where you’ve little prop-space and, while you can usually find venues small enough for close-up magic, it seriously limits the size of your audience. Chris Dugdale takes these limitations in his stride and produces a show to that’s big enough to thrill and small enough to engage.
Whether it’s done by sleight-of-hand, psychology or a mixture of both, the tricks that Dugdale pulls out of the bag are amazing. He begins the act with a simple ‘guess the number’ game which rapidly escalates, setting the tone for the rest of show. Simple propositions spiral up in complexity and scale; banknotes are marked, destroyed and reappear in places they could not possibly be; sealed envelopes yield impossibly accurate predictions and factors, which can only possibly be random chance, seem to fall under Dugdale’s control.
It’s tempting, as with all shows, to try to see the strings, to work out precisely what Dugdale is doing and how he’s doing it but, even on a stage under the bright unforgiving lights, it’s impossible to do so. His big final trick, a remote control three-person card game with Dugdale playing all the moves from underneath a blindfold, seems so multi-layered that you wonder how he fits it all in his head. As a close to the show though, it’s a brilliant one.
There are, admittedly, points which strike a little bit of a bum note. Dugdale’s schtick is very polished but there are points where he straddles the border between showmanship and smarminess. Also, his promise at the outset of the show is to explain to us how he came to be banned for life from several top Vegas casinos and the final trick, whilst very impressive, fails to deliver on this front.
These criticisms aside, ‘Mischief and Magic’ is a fast-paced showcase of trickery and illusion which will keep you on your toes and leave you scratching your head for quite some time after.