Paul Wilson presents possibly the most low-key magic show at the Fringe this year, but his successes on BBC3’s The Real Hustle practically guarantee him an audience of fans. There’s a reason the TV show is namedropped in the title - it’s the allure of potentially hearing about scams and crime that gives the show an edge. Unfortunately that potential is never fulfilled.
Wilson’s jokes are few and far between and his recurring form of appearing to fail at a trick before adding a final twist becomes tired about halfway through the show – it’s patently obvious that he’s never actually going to fail. The tricks are good, restricted to the types of card tricks and bar games that fill the less interesting slots of the TV show but which are admittedly impressive in the flesh. Wilson is obviously very confident in his abilities, conning a member of the audience repeatedly and easily building tension in the small stuffy space.
Throughout the show Wilson provides short stories about the tricks he’s performing and the magicians who came up with them. Only once or twice are we treated to an anecdote of his very own and this is a problem. For a show with ‘Confessions’ in the title there’s little that’s personal in Wilson’s set; the show feels almost as impersonal as his TV appearances. Those members of the audience who were asked to participate no doubt felt it was an interactive experience, but anyone not in the front row might struggle to engage in the close-up sleight of hand that is clearly Wilson’s speciality. However, Wilson still has plenty of charisma and an air of deviousness that can carry the show through its duller moments and the fan base that will make up the majority of his audience need little impressing.