Those who rushed in to Ian Saville’s magic show just before starting were in danger of thinking that the performance had already begun. Saville stood at the front, entertaining the audience with gentle wit by informing them that the act had yet to get going. Gentle is a good word to describe Saville; a performer who downplays his tricks for the sake of effect, eschewing flashy props or the lure of building himself up. He differs from conventional children’s conjurers by combining panto style jokes with deadpan puns, helping his all ages appeal. His ability to keep his entire audience amused was seen when he officially began the show with a simple but brilliant gag which plays on the eagerness of young audience members to stick their hands up. That they were being made the punchline of the joke went over the heads of the already giggling kids but it allowed the grown-ups a good chuckle.
As the show progressed, Saville continued to play off the children, who within minutes were straining forwards, desperate to point out what he was deliberately missing. It is no small feat to keep such a rowdy crowd entertained for 50 minutes but he did so by responding to some of their more bizarre ideas and these moments often got the largest laughs. Adults were entertained not so much by the events on stage but by how he managed to control the children’s reactions.
Through the rise of TV magicians, we have become used to seeing ever more jaw-dropping illusions performed. By contrast, Saville’s tricks do not appear particularly creative, which is part of the reason why this show is more suitable for younger children for whom the disappearance of a handkerchief is something relatively new. However, the seeming simplicity of his sleights of hand have their own silly charm, particular as he toys with magical conventions through his ridiculous conversations with his ‘assistants’ (a length of rope and a toy rabbit).
Go see this show if you want something that will amuse the parents while engrossing the children. And don’t you want to go anyway, just to find out what exactly is bothering Saville in his shoe?