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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

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