Assembly Rooms Edinburgh

Chris Dugdale: Ethermind


Assembly Rooms (Drawing Room), George Street, Edinburgh

We’re already approaching the end of the first week of the Fringe. Our feet are just about walked off, we’re knackered, but we’re happy, because Fringe is back in full swing and we’ve seen some incredible new acts – plus a few familiar favourites. Chris Dugdale definitely falls into the latter category. We first caught his act way back in 2015 and he’s a been a fixture on our schedule ever since. It’s not that we’re fans of magic, per se, but there’s something about this magician that just clicks with us. The cheery patter, his likeable personality – and the fact that he never ever fails to astonish us.

His speciality is close-up magic. He even provides a video camera, trained on his hands, as he goes through an extended card routine with an astonished young lad picked from the crowd. ‘I want to show you a trick,’ says Chris. And we gasp out loud. How does he do that? Every time I think, ‘I’ll really concentrate this time and I’ll see how he gets that card into the box without even touching it. One year, he’ll let his guard down and I’ll catch him out.’

And every year, I’m just as baffled.

And then there’s the mind-reading tricks, the way he seems able to reach into your head and make you do stuff that you cannot rationally explain. Remember the old familiar trick your granddad did when he pulled a coin from your ear at Christmas parties? Mr D gives the routine a fresh new twist and puts you right back in that enchanted state of mind you had in childhood

But listen, I’m not going to bore on about this. If you see only one magician at the Fringe this year, there’s a logical choice. Now concentrate! I want you to picture something. Are you concentrating? I’m seeing a name in my mind… it’s appearing gradually in front of you, like something approaching through a dust storm. It’s taking shape… Can you see it now? Correct!

The name is CHRIS DUGDALE. Now go grab a ticket before they sell out.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Assembly Rooms Launch

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Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh

 The Assembly Rooms on George Street is one of the Fringe’s finest venues, its architecture creating an opulent backdrop for an eclectic range of shows.

This year’s offerings are many and varied; I’ll wager there’s something here for everyone. The selection we were offered last night barely scratched the surface, but still encompassed no less than seven genres of music – from comic ditties to classic crooning. There was theatre too, and comedy: it was a promising introduction to the latest festival.

There were too many acts to name them all, and we only saw a small sample of what they do (although we’ll definitely be back to find out more).

Standouts, though, included The Missing Hancocks, a recreation of four Hancock’s Half Hour radio scripts that have not been heard since the 1950s. Kevin McNally’s Hancock is delightfully accurate, with all the lugubrious charm of the man himself, and Robin Sebastian does a cracking Kenneth Williams. The scripts are funny in themselves, but they are performed here with vim and gusto and enough ‘new’ character to make them worthwhile in their own right (The Music Hall, 4.15pm – alternating daily between Show A and Show B).

Canadian Tom Stade’s stand-up was another highlight. He lives in Scotland now, and spent most of this short set ruminating on the cultural oddities his relocation has thrown up. His laconic style is utterly engaging, and this brief offering augers well for the full-length show (The Ballroom, 9.40pm – nightly).

We also enjoyed Christine Bovill’s Piaf, a delightful homage to a woman Bovill clearly adores. The songs are sung with warmth as well as precision, and Bovill is an engaging raconteur too, explaining both what the songs mean to her – and what they meant to Piaf herself. This is undoubtedly one to watch (The Spiegeltent, 7.20pm, various dates).

This was a strong start to this year’s Fringe at the Assembly Rooms – and, here at Bouquets and Brickbats, we are very excited about the next three weeks.

(We have decided not to include a star-rating for launch events, as it’s impossible to rate such a diverse collection of excerpts.)

Susan Singfield