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Edinburgh Fringe 2019

James Phelan: Troublemaker

James Phelan

Genre: Comedic, Magic

Venue: Gilded Balloon


Low Down

A light-hearted comedy magic show from a well-known, up-and-coming comedian and also the nephew of the great Paul Daniels. James Phelan puts a modern spin on some old tricks.


Former ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ star and cheeky-chappie James Phelan,makes his Fringe debut with his show ‘Troublemaker’. From the moment we take our seats we are transformed into excited school children about to see magic for the very first time. With millions of YouTube views achieved and the star of his own BBC radio show, it would be fair to say that Phelan comes with quite the reputation. Arguably more so, due to the fact that he is the nephew of the late, great Paul Daniels and Debbie McGee. Through comedic story-telling, Phelan recites moments within his own childhood about his Uncle, which would eventually lead to following in his footsteps and becoming a magician. It is from these stories that as an audience we see some of Phelan’s best tricks that we will leave even the more seasoned ‘magic-show-goer’s’ flabbergasted.

As we enter the space, we are given a mysterious sealed brown envelope and are welcomed by large bright LED lights showcasing the magicians name. The stage is filled with a traditional magic table with a black cloth covering its surface.

Phelan combines quick one-liners with audience interaction to showcase his comedic skills. He returns frequently to the same audience members to provide a sense of consistency within his routine. Although, this production is extremely fast-paced and sometimes words were hard to hear or were even completely lost. With this in mind, the text could be slowed down a touch for an international Fringe audience such as the one Phelan had on this day. However, what Phelan does extremely well is provide a modern spin on some old tricks. He has created an original show and has made magic somewhat ‘cooler’ and more attractive to audiences.  One of the first instructions we receive is to raise our mobile phones in the air. This allowed every single member of the audience to participate. It was rather hilarious analyzing the nervous audience members when Phelan was deciding on who to pick.

One of the most endearing factors of a magic show is looking around and seeing the amazed faces from young to old after seeing a trick. This show has many moments like that. From the very beginning, Phelan tells us that he will return to a trick at the end of the show for the ‘grand finale’. This allows us to second-guess throughout about what he may eventually do. The last trick is certainly the best of the show and was definitely worth the wait.

Overall, I would recommend this production as it really is a show for anyone to enjoy. Although if you are somewhat precious about your mobile phone, it’s probably best you leave it at home….