Skip to main content

Review of Pete Firman - Trickster at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

I have been a fan of magic since growing up with it on my telly in the eighties. During that decade of my youth, the now much maligned king was Paul Daniels, and he was a Saturday night fix attracting between 12-15 million viewers in its heydays. It is now considered rubbish, old fashioned, and not worth your time by an audience that now watches The X-Factor on a weekly basis. Go figure.

However, magic has always appealed to me from my television armchair and when the BBC revived magic for the Saturday night audience in the form of the series The Magicians a few years back, I watched. Although it sadly struggled to gain much foothold on the viewing figures, I enjoyed it and it introduced a brand new generation of modern day magicians. Youthful, edgy, and occasionally totally bizarre, they breathed new life into the genre as they plied their skills in some often spectacular and downright scary tricks.

One of them was the young (well younger than me anyway) Pete Firman from and last night I had the pleasure of seeing him live in my very first full live magic show. I had done a modest amount of research before the show and had decided that to avoid any on stage embarrassment, the safest scenario would be a seat in the circle. So settled with a modest band of merry men and ladies we observed from a safe distance the feats on show.

If you are familiar with old style magic, I can safely say that Mr Firman's show falls squarely into this category. If not, let me say that there is none of the showy prop related shenanigans on display here and no big spectacles, this is the comfy, sweet little Royal stage after all. There was not even a wardrobe with swords stuck into it and no chopping tables for damsels to be spliced on. Pretty much the biggest it got was a chair in a box, a very simple but very neat opening trick. The cleanness of stage however allowed Mr Firman to partake in the simple things like close-up card tricks (and yes even in the circle, they were still close-up), mind reading and a bit of swallowing stuff.

It was a wonderful collection of tricks and because it wasn't over the top, it allowed Mr Firman to add his second skill, his remarkable, quick witted personality into the mix. Totally at ease with his audience whether they be in their seats, or very frequently on stage with him. He really is a remarkable stage presence.

The audience participation is also an amazing feat and must totally go beyond the plant situation, otherwise he would need a bus to get them around. A veritable conveyor belt of members of the public up the stairs to the stage made me grateful to be observing from afar. I did my time on the Royal stage thanks to The Play That Goes Wrong, and hopefully will not have to tread the boards again too soon. The audience members however did seem remarkably at ease on stage, even when they were about to have things stuck into them or threatened with having to complete the show themselves. This is all of course down to Mr Firman, whether they are being gently ribbed (poor old Jason), or potentially having to inflict pain, he keeps them calm, because he himself is the perfect calm host. He may look a little alarming at times, a slightly deranged twinkle in the eye perhaps, but he guides his "volunteers" by the hand expertly and if you are worried you might get picked. Don't be. No one died and the audience was with you all the time, as they knew they just might be next.

I really couldn't have hoped for more from my first experience of live magic. Fascinating, bewildering, puzzling and also very, very funny throughout. Mr Firman provides two hours of quality entertainment and even if you think magic is not your bag, give it the benefit of the doubt and see a master of his trade at work.

««««½

Performance viewed: Thursday 6th November, 2014 at the Royal & Derngate (Royal).

Pete Firman's Trickster tour is currently running throughout November and details can be found on his website at http://www.petefirman.co.uk/ and he can be followed on Twitter @petefirman

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Review of Rules For Living at Royal & Derngate (Royal), Northampton

It is possibly a rule in life for a few in the audience for the opening night of Sam Holcroft's domestic comedy Rules For Living not to mention Christmas until December. Therefore anyone of such a persuasion might have been a little perturbed to be presented on the 13th September with, an undeniably brilliantly dressed, homely Christmas scene.

Opening up in glorious dollhouse style and on a gorgeous little hinge, this little home of living room and kitchen sets the scene for a typical family Christmas. Mother Edith (Jane Booker) welcomes her sons, Matthew (Jolyon Coy) and Adam (Ed Hughes) and their respective partners, Carrie (Carlyss Peer) and Nicole (Laura Rogers) And with a final dramatic arrival of father Francis (Paul Shelley), the scene is very much set for comic antics of the highest calibre.

The first thing you get from Rules For Living in the first few minutes is the arrival of one of the most brilliant, yet simple concepts I have seen for a while in the play. These are …

Review of Make Way For Lucia by John Van Druten at The Playhouse Theatre, Northampton

There have been a couple of television versions of the Mapp & Lucia novels by E. F. Benson over the years and irrespective of which generation version you might have seen, the roles of Miss Mapp and Mrs. Lucas were filled with some heavyweight performers. So taking on these roles could, in theory, be a challenge too much to live up to. However, that would be if the characters themselves were less the sum of the performer. These are great characters on paper as well as on stage and therefore Gena McCrystal (Miss Mapp) and Juliet O'Connor (Lucia) make them very much their own in the stage adaption by John Van Druten.

Lucia has arrived and breezed both into the town of Tilling and the musical chair roundabout of house rental that is want to occur here. Her rented property is Miss Mapp's and for some reason, Mapp fails to follow the routine of keeping away, constantly "popping in", so the battle lines are drawn.
Make Way for Lucia is the typical battle of supremacy i…

Review of Once Upon A Grimm Tale by The Royal & Derngate Actors Company (Early) at Judge's Lodgings, Northampton

Once upon a time, there was a brave theatrical reviewer. He lived in a market town in deepest darkest Englaland, where many great and remarkable things of stage did occur. At the centre of this wondrous world of performing spectacles was a place referred to by many as the Royal Derngatus, a place of people pretending to be other people and telling tales of mystery, intrigue and frolics.

Within the fortressed walls of Royal Derngatus, there were a group of fearless players who entertained local folk for no reward, other than the thrill of seeing the joy in the faces of others. Those group of artists went by the name of Actors Companus, which many pronounced carefully when they did say it out loud. This group of merry men and women did have two forms, an early and a late, and but two days before this adventurous evening of forthcoming storytelling, the late group did perform for a third and final time a most amazing feat of theatre, going by the name of Great Expectations.


Our hero of thi…