The Guardian newspaper of London recently ran a piece on the popularity of magic, magicians and the traditional magic show. In asking whether magic was again becoming “fashionable,” the anonymous writer referenced “the old journalistic adage, “Two’s a coincidence, three’s a trend.”
“Penn and Teller, who sprang to fame in the 1980s by appearing to reveal the secrets behind tricks, thereby breaking the magical code of omerta, are the old guard in this pairing. Fool Us is, at heart, no different from the Paul Daniels magic shows of decades past, merely spiced with the addition of some X Factor dynamics.”
They may have been the “Bad Boys of Magic” but Fool Us is not a challenge to the proud history of an art form that continues to entertain because and in spite of remarkable developments in science. “Penn & Teller are historians of magic and their respect for those who are operating within such traditions is palpable, even when they are not fooled by the acts.”
On those rare occasions when they are fooled, they accept their stumping with grace.
The Street Magic motif is certainly not new but Steven Frayne has apparently added his own emphasis and focus in Dynamo: Magician Impossible. Mr. Frayne performs in character and under the real or feigned restrictions cinéma vérité to extract entertainment from both the performance as well as his volunteers’ reactions to the effect. In fact, the magic takes a back seat to the reaction.
“A trick that involved a disappearing 2p piece reappearing on a punter’s shoulder was first undermined by seeing Dynamo place it there, then it sitting in plain view for several seconds until he claimed to have made it reappear, but was then heightened by the borderline-scared reaction of his victim.”
American readers may need to bring an English to American dictionary to decipher some passages. “Dynamo appears to seek out either gormless drunks, or those operating at the point where celebrity meets twattery. I was genuinely perplexed about the reaction of one babygro-clad DJ to a trick – “Really, really baff.”
Recalling that the article is appearing in The Guardian newspaper – the very same paper that broke the Rupert Murdoch phone-hacking story – the writer brings it all together in the final two sentences. “We hate being conned, but we still love to be tricked – it simply has to be benign. And so we switch from tricks being revealed on the news to tricks being played on the magic shows, and balance is restored.”