Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
Pete Firman professes to be a student as well as a practitioner of magic. This approach gives him the chance to put his own spin on established tricks, such as the ‘dancing table’ standard, and to pay tribute to his influences. In a charming move during Marvels, Firman performs a trick attributed to his uncle who, he claims, started his interest in magic.
The nostalgic atmosphere does, however, make Marvels feel a little dated. There are variations on tricks audiences have seen before- wedding rings disappear only to turn up in a sealed box and containers grow or shrink and reveal unexpected contents.
Pete Firman adopts a number of misdirection techniques to keep the formula fresh. False endings are employed so a mind-reading trick initially seems to have gone wrong only to turn out okay in the end. More challenging is the approach of explaining how a trick is performed and then casually proving that was not the method employed. Firman’s approach, therefore, deliberately raises, rather than answers, questions on how tricks are performed. A transformation illusion is achieved, explains Firman, by stuffing a handkerchief into an artificial egg concealed in the hand. Of course, he then goes on to prove the egg he is using is genuine not a fake.
The masterstroke by Firman is to make extensive use of audience involvement. This adds to both the trick and the comedy. It seems more authentic when a trick is performed with the aid of a patron who, one imagines, would be able to spot any misdirection due to their proximity. It is hilarious to watch people trying to help with a stunt who somehow fail to notice that Firman is constantly slipping in and out of handcuffs they have just verified are escape-proof. Mind you, considering the use Firman makes of audience participation, some of the biggest laughs at The Lowry arise from his inability to remember the correct names.
Firman adopts the persona of a slightly peevish perfectionist. He is mildly irritated rather than panicked when tricks do not go as planned and subtly gives the impression that the fault lies with the audience.
As is often the case the simplest tricks are often the best if only because they seem the result of Firman’s skill rather than any gimmick. He is a superb sleight of hand artist shuffling cards one-handed, manipulating Rubric cubes behind his back or making an endless number of rubber balls appear. You have to admire the casual manner in which Firman rolls up his sleeves, without drawing attention to the action, before performing the tricks.
Over-familiarity with some of the tricks limits the appeal of Marvels but there are enough moments of pure skill (spinning glasses full of Coca-Cola around without spilling a drop) or genuinely baffling routines (making a lengthy calculation that has a significance for the whole audience) to ensure a crowd-pleasing show.
Reviewed on 30 September 2018 | Image: Contributed