The annual free programme curated by Forest Fringe kicks off with a sleight-of-hand flourish with this show from magician Vincent Gambini. It may be called ‘This Is Not a Magic Show’ but it has a raft of bind-bogglingly fun tricks, from duplicating coins to disappearing cards.
What it’s definitely not, is a magic show with all the traditional end-of-the-pier spiel. Gambini sits alone at a table with a pack of cards. He’s dressed for the pub and he talks to us, delivering his tricks in a matter-of-fact style. He tells us how he couldn’t think of an opening trick and rang up the Magic Circle hotline to get some help and two different magicians – one called Derren, one called David (we’re left to assume who they might be) – helped him out. But one of the tricks they recommend stumps Gambini and he mucks it up. Or does he? Suddenly the trick evolves, gets better and becomes a perfect magic stunt right before our very eyes.
Gambini is witty, but he’s also a slippery figure. His magic skills are top notch, but he knows how to mess with an audience’s heads too. He’s quiet, deliberate and exceptionally controlled, but is he really called Gambini? And is there really a Magic Circle hotline? His tricks are beautifully layered, so when you think they’ve finished there’s something else that jumps out to astound you. He’s clearly playing us, but it’s impossible not to enjoy it. ‘This Is Not a Magic Show’ is a journey of belief, surprise, skill and fun.
And, unless you’re an all-knowing card sharp, you will be astounded. Even though Gambini regularly denounces the existence of magic – ‘I’m not a wizard!’ he exclaims when recounting the story of how someone once asked him to do an impossible trick. Then he does the impossible trick. This may not be the sort of conjuring show you’re used to, but there’s magic at work here nonetheless.