Reviewer: Tracey Lowe
It’s a sad state of affairs, but magic shows aimed at the over-12s are few and far between. TV shows such as ‘The Magicians’ are trying to bring illusions back into the mainstream, but even they have to get D-list celebrities involved to scrape satisfactory viewing figures. However, one good thing that did come from ‘The Magicians’ is that it introduced Pete Firman to a wider audience. This cheeky-faced scamp from Middlesbrough not only has some very impressive tricks literally up his sleeve, but also has the comedy patter to keep an audience entertained.
‘Hoodwinker’ is Firman’s 2012 Edinburgh Fringe show, and he is taking it on an extensive tour across the UK. Salford is one of the first stops in the tour, but you wouldn’t know it, as Firman is slick, professional and absolutely hilarious.
Firman performs a very quick card trick for the audience, before introducing his warm-up act, young comedian Chris Stokes. Stokes is very self-deprecating, making jokes about his fragile frame, and how he was once mistaken for a lesbian. His routine regarding a friend who lied about his uncle being captain of the Titanic had more than a hint of Stewart Lee, but was nevertheless very funny. While his material wasn’t exactly subversive, his set was solid, and the audience seemed to respond well to him.
Firman introduces himself with a video clip featuring great modern illusionists, such as Derren Brown, Andy Nyman, Barry and Stuart, and, of course, Sooty. These are quite well established acts to compare himself to, but Firman is every bit as talented as these wonderful men. His sense of humour is dark, wicked and mischievous. He also pulls no punches with his “volunteers” from the audience, relentlessly making fun of a young male who had some difficulty understanding simple instructions. He also dealt with a disinterested patron texting during the show extremely well, which gained him a round of applause.
The tricks themselves are quite traditional. His routine includes smashing an audience member’s watch, breaking bits of string and joining them back together, and connecting some wedding rings. Although these tricks require great skill and sleigh of hand, they wouldn’t be overly impressive performed as a stand-alone routine. But Firman’s wit ensures that the audience remains firmly in the palm of his hand. He is a born entertainer and an absolute pleasure to watch.
Firman’s final trick, involving an orange juice carton that seemingly contained many different liquids, was very impressive. Disappointingly, he may have given away slightly more than intended, as it was very clear to this audience member how at least one part of the trick was done.
Firman isn’t as cool or mysterious as the likes of Derren Brown, and I’m sure he doesn’t intend to be. His sense of fun and enthusiasm makes for an absolutely joyous evening of magic, where the audience is too busy enjoying themselves to care how the tricks themselves are done.