Assembly George Square Studio 2, Edinburgh
There’s something distinctly old school about magician Chris Dugdale: the sharp suit, the comic patter, the cheeky persona… and many of his tricks are well-worn too. The opening routine where he swallows razorblades was popularised by Harry Houdini, while the bullet-catch is the same one that so tragically finished the career of Chung Ling Soo (William Ellsworth Robinson) in 1918, even if Dugdale has adapted it slightly, substituting a paintball gun for a revolver. But actually it’s great to see these classic routines done with such style and aplomb.
However, it’s his sleight-of-hand routines with playing cards that are (if you’ll forgive the pun) his strongest suit. These are conducted at a small table with a member of the audience sitting right beside him and a video camera projecting the whole thing onto a big screen behind. As you watch mesmerised, the cards appear to change suit every time he turns them over. It’s an accomplished piece of close up magic, one of the best I’ve seen.
Another routine, which he spins out through the show has a jaw-dropping payoff as Dugdale appears to undo all traces of everything we’ve seen during his act; and there’s a ‘mind-reading’ trick that had us wracking our brains in a ‘how did he do that?’ sort of way. It’s accomplished stuff, and his invitation to play cards for money with anyone from the audience later on is wisely ignored.
Maybe he might think of doing something bigger, more flamboyant next time out, but for now, this will do nicely. Oh yes, I just remembered. The trick with the Rubik’s cube. How on earth did he do that?