Brighton Fringe 2021
Journey back into childhood, as the Great Baldini, reveals how a secret cadre of magicians run the world. Using tricks, jokes and lots of humour, we find out how they rig elections, where the money goes and why the clowns are in charge. This lecture by the ‘Emperor of Illusion, The Prince of Prestidigitation and the Maharajah of Mystery’, will reveal how the universe really works.
Everyone loves a magic show! Or so says the conventional wisdom. The Great Baldini’s show is a journey back in time. Sadly, magic shows are not as fashionable as they once were. Nowadays, TV magicians are young, hip and a bit gimmicky. By going back in time, the Great Baldini has found a way to bring back that old-fashioned magic. This show is as much a labour of love as a fringe show.
The stage is dressing evokes a Victorian Theatre/Music Hall. There is a board on an easel, with the legend ‘The Great Baldini’. The drapes and props evoke Sherlock Holmes sitting room. Then, there is the man himself.
Baldini is bald, sporting a grey goatee, and wearing a red velvet jacket with a black waistcoat. He is very much the Victorian Gentleman Magician. His voice booms and his presence holds’ the attention. Everything he does seems to be underpinned by a wicked sense of humour and an amused glint in his eye.
While the audience files in, he engages them with some crowd work. He does a trick or two, cracks jokes and engages in witty banter. There is a reassuring, ‘Don’t Worry I’m not one of those magicians who likes to pick on the audience’ statement. Once the show starts, the depth and warmth of Baldini’s personality shines through. The Great Baldini is an engaging and charismatic character. Spending an hour in his company is a pleasure.
Finding a new way to deliver magic to a TV sated audience requires invention and creativity. To do this, Baldini sets out to tell the story of the secret cadre of magicians that rule the world. He uses this narrative to link in a range of magic tricks. It’s a neat idea. There is a thread that holds everything together. It winds through politics, conspiracy theories and various mystical legends.
As for the tricks, there is a wide variety. Baldini entertains us with card tricks, mind reading, prediction and a grand finale. As you’d expect, he saves the best for last.
Unfortunately, one trick went slightly wrong, but this didn’t seem to matter. He made a joke out of it, and the audience found it entertaining. Although, my suspicious nature made me wonder if this was misdirection and he would still pull the proverbial R out of the H.
This is a very enjoyable show, driven by the personality of the magician.
That said, some areas would benefit from further development.
Baldini is loquacious and voluble. Part Victorian Grandee, mage and student of the occult mixed with charm, patter and trickiness of a snake oil salesman. With this characterisation, the patter needs to match the persona, and it does. This means there is a tendency to ramble on too long.
During the opening monologue, the scene-setting, there is too much talk and not enough action. A quick trick, or a sight gag, would bring forward the audience engagement. A follow up to the cane reveal would fit in nicely.
When Baldini is at his best, it is with ‘off the cuff’ badinage between himself and the audience. Clearly, he possesses a quick and ready wit. He manages to walk the fine line between witty banter and cutting sarcasm, and wrap it up in a ball of charm. However, the scripted elements of the story, the glue that binds the tricks to shows arc, are not as fluid. Attention to pacing and content would sharpen this. The audience wants to see the tricks, laugh at the jokes, and enjoy the fooling. These elements need to be front and centre.
The show favours an older age group. Many of the references are relevant to the over 50’s. With an older demographic, referencing events from early 20th Century political history works. For younger age groups, more up to date references would be more relevant. Not everyone is up on contemporary history, myth and magic.
It is clear from the off that Baldini is clever. We expect it. A magic show audience always knows they are never going to find the lady, but it doesn’t matter, we can still enjoy the fooling.
The trouble is, when you are the smartest person in the room, it’s easy to assume that everyone knows as much as you. Highbrow references risk disconnecting the audience, and as a result, your brilliantly clever gag misses everyone. The Pravda gag is a case in point.
Nevertheless, I look forward to the next version of Baldini’s box of tricks. This storytelling version of the traditional magic show has much to recommend it. It allows for a funny script, making it part acted performance and magic. There is no limit to the themes he can use to link his tricks together.
In Summary, this is an old-style magic act. Baldini uses the story of a secret cadre of magicians to give a theme to his tricks. The tricks themselves are clever and well-done. The show is funny, the humour underlying everything in it. The ‘off the cuff’ banter is nicely pitched, never making the audience feel picked on or belittled. The Great Baldini is charming, engaging and a charismatic entertainer. An hour spent in his company is a pleasure. This show is Recommended.