Yorkshire-born Chris Cassells seems such a trustworthy young man that it’s somewhat disconcerting to realise that he’s already recognised as a rising star among the UK’s stage magicians - a group of individuals whom Cassells admits lie, cheat and deceive for a living. But they’re also a secretive bunch; not just about how they perform particular tricks but also what compels them to follow such a life of lies in the first place. Intrigued? You will be; Cassells is, if nothing else, a bit of a tease.
Cassells’ Edinburgh debut sees him introducing some of the most notable stage magicians of the last hundred-odd years, and performing his own versions of the tricks most associated with them. Disappointingly, perhaps, this doesn’t mean Cassells starts with escapology; while Houdini remains the most infamous of escapologists, it’s less well know that he began his stage career as a card trick magician — the modestly titled King of the Cards, no less.
Actively involving members of his audience throughout the show, Cassells informatively and entertainingly moves through the decades in the process showing how fashions have changed when it comes to stage personas — slipping between the most self-centred, self-important magicians and stage mentalists (such as the now largely forgotten Chan Canasta, who was a big UK and US TV star in the 1950s and 1960s) to much-loved figures such as David Nixon and Tommy Cooper, whose greatest skill was to make what they did seem even more incredible by initially pretending to get it mundanely wrong.
Despite Harry Potter’s real-world origins in an Edinburgh coffee shop, the bookend inclusion of a fictional young wizard in a list of stage magicians might seem somewhat opportunistic; and whether or not you accept Cassells’ reasoning is up to you. Nevertheless, starting with one Harry and ending with another does give the show its shape, and few could argue that Harry Potter isn’t as famous as Harry Houdini. Cassells has other reasons, but it’s best if you find out those for yourselves; if nothing else, you’ll discover an engaging and entertaining performer who is clearly destined for greater things.