Dave Alnwick is a true magician’s magician, with many strings to his bow. You can watch him perform a trick you’ve seen done a dozen times by other performers and still feel like you’re witnessing something fresh. This is thanks mostly to his outgoing stagecraft, in which he overplays his confidence to great comic effect, generating laughs from merely suggesting tricks he can’t do “Look under your pint glass, mate... I can’t believe you just looked”, and congratulating himself after each triumph. His effects often come packed with expectation-subverting twists that I'd imagine would amuse and surprise (but not fool) even Penn & Teller.
Almost certainly the most spontaneously funny magician on the Fringe
Actual Magic takes us on a journey through a range of exclusively impressive magic tricks, which Alnwick has clearly put a lot of effort into designing. The writing and execution are consistently enjoyable, with a wide range of different props and techniques used throughout. Alnwick really holds the room in the palm of his hand, wielding the F-word as a carefully placed tool for comic effect – such as telling someone who erroneously volunteered himself as a movie-buff to “Sit the £^@& down” in a way nobody could take offense to. At one point, a female audience member in her thirties belches as he talks to her across the room, and he doesn’t hesitate before going completely off script for 30 seconds to enthusiastically congratulate her on “a beautiful burp”. It’s among the funniest of ad libs I’ve ever heard.
Alnwick takes an interesting angle with some of his scripting, although it’s not fully clear what his motivations are. At one point, he debunks his own artform, suggesting “If you think you know how a trick is done, then it isn’t magic”, and also confesses that the common magician's trope of telling ‘true stories’ is always followed by a fabrication. He admits he himself never tells true stories on stage, yet focuses much of the second half hour on telling personal tales unironically. These stories are well delivered and heartfelt, but would have been more enthralling had he not previously disassociated himself from their legitimacy, as they now feel less genuine.
Despite this paradox, the show is a triumph and a showcase of skills, as Alnwick plays the tin whistle, recites Shakespeare, delivers stories that will warm your heart, and of course packs in a shedload of amazing magic. In Actual Magic, Alnwick goes one step further to cementing himself as among the most enjoyable, and almost certainly the most spontaneously funny magician on the Fringe.