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Edinburgh Fringe 2023

Magic For Animals

Liz Toonkel

Genre: Comedy, Magic

Venue: Greenside @ Infirmary Street


Low Down

This one-woman magic show challenges how we treat animals, and other humans, in a funny, intelligent production full of impressive illusions. 


We’re going to design a purse, Liz Toonkel tells the audience, “so first we have to choose which animal to skin alive!” This is a lead up to an impressive card trick with audience participation, and it is one of the many parts of Toonkel’s act that entertain but educate. Whether its the goldfish in the too-small bowl, the oyster farmed for its pearl, or the crocodile in the cement cell, Toonkel presents the ugly truth with the pizzazz artistry one would expect from a professional magician, but with an important moral center that makes it something more. It isn’t, however, an indictment or a lecture. The magic takes the edge off and invites us in rather than scolds us, which in less deft hands than Toonkel’s would be easy to do with the information she has at hand. Throughout the show are also forays into Toonkel’s own life, which are delivered with humor and openness that allows us to lower our defenses. We’ve all made mistakes, she reminds us, it’s about what we do going forward with what we have learned, here and elsewhere.

The design and direction of the show is mesmerizing. The costumes and the props are top-tier and exactly what you might expect to see at a venue in Vegas or Los Angeles. The highlight of the design is a surprising crocodile handbag that is more than it seems. The beautiful goldfish dress that Toonkel wears is of her own conception, brought to life by costume designer, Stephen James and it adds a whimsical element to the show right from the getgo that tells us exactly what we are to expect. 

Even before she reveals her glittering goldfish costume, Liz Toonkel sparkles on stage. The audience waits on her every word, and not just because we want to know how the heck she did the many masterful sleight of hand tricks she accomplishes. Her wit, warm persona, and at times vulnerability, are enough to make us follow her wherever she goes, even when it is challenges our own preconceptions about our place in the animal kingdom. As if that isn’t enough, she also pushes the envelope by simply existing at all: she is a queer Jewish woman in an industry that is still dominated by men. Hers is an incredibly welcome face to the magic community, and I think you’ll find Magic For Animals to be magic for you as well.