Edinburgh Fringe 2013
"The latest show from Ian Saville, socialist magician. Ian investigates the real meaning of money. Where does it come from? Do we really need it? Ian consults experts, and his financial adviser, who turns out to be a dummy."
I’ve seen a lot of magicians at the Fringe over the years. Ian Saville brings a rather different take on the genre by using magic and ventriloquism and plenty of patter to explain and explose the banking system and the real meaning and purpose of money before leaping off the stage, heading to the exit and placing a bucket before us as we leave, into which many entertained and happy audience members place coins and notes.
Question: What is the difference between slickness and panache? I’ve seen a lot of "slick" magic here in Edinburgh. Slick magicians often tradeoff that slickness for authenticity and then it really feels as if the whole routine is a bit too staged, a bit to clinically (and therefore cynically) aimed at working the room. The slickness can create a coldness and we, as audience tend to lean back and become passive "wow"-sayers rather than a more actively engaged audience.
Now you might notice I haven’t told you about any of the tricks, any of what happens in the show in any detail. Of course, that would spoil it for you. Because, though we have set piece routines here, it is all woven together with a bit of hidden writing genius, into an unfolding narrative – the story of money and how we are all in the collective financial mess we are in today. A caricature ventriloquist’s dummy is all I’ll tell you about – who takes the form of a financial advisor to Saville. And as the show unfolds, we realise that, perhaps, this is no caricature at all, but a rather accurate representation of the bonus-addicted bankers who suddenly seemed to fly out of the woodwork as all of the banks went into crisis. Sometimes caricature and reality converge in a crisis. These moments are a bit shattering in Saville’s show; the place calms and we’re in the realms of some powerful theatre, which Saville brings down to a quiet conversation between he and the dummy. And who were the dummies in this banking meltdown? The bankers or we, who happily watched it all happen and colluded with it for years? Suddenly the dialogue between Saville and his dummy (delivered with top drawer ventriloquist timing and precision) is a dialogue between we, ourselves and the "system". That’s a bit of theatrical genius in the show.
Some of Saville’s magic is slick, (not all) but it is backed up wholly authentically by panache. He pulls off his tricks with it, and there’s no loss of authentic connection with we, the audience. From the very moment wer enter, Saville is there, engaging in easy and real conversation, wanting us to be sitting somewhere we are comfortable, and, most of all, wanting us to understand, wanting us to "get it" whilst being entertained – whilst enjoying HIM and what he is doing.
His ventriloquism is among the finest I have ever seen and a couple of the tricks got well deserved whoops of delight from a "wowed" audience.
And, if that were all, it would be a good show.
But what makes it a very good show indeed is the fact that Saville is also delivering a kind of interactive lecture on what money is, and how the economy collapsed. Where else can you finally understand what Futures or Derivatives are than in the fluent and eloquent hands of this companionable host who isn’t afriad to step into the shadows ofd politics and commerce and shine a sharp and often cuttingly funny light on them via the medium of magic? That’s the biggest magical feat of all in this hour long, witty and cleverly conceived and realised show. There’s skilfull coin magic, card magic, ventriloquism, all rooted in a magic show in a cabaret bar.
Not all of the tricks are as "slick", but the whole show is all of a piece – rounded in its conception and delivery. We walk away education, entertained and challenged. What more can you ask of a Fringe show than that?