Chris Dugdale

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

Edfest Bouquets 2019


It’s that time again when we award (virtual) bouquets to the best shows we saw at this year’s EdFringe. From a plethora of performances over three weeks, here are our highlights. Congratulations to all concerned.


Endless Second – Theo Toksvig-Stewart/Madeleine Gray/Camilla Gurtler/ Cut the Cord

Who Cares? – Jessica Temple/Lizzie Mounter/Luke Grant/ Matt Woodhead/ LUNG & The Lowry

Shine – Olivier Leclair/Tiia-Mari Mäkinen/Hippana Theatre & From Start to Finnish

Ripped – Alex Gwyther/Max Lindsay/Robin Rayner Productions

On The Other Hand, We’re Happy – Toyin Omari-Kinch/Charlotte Bate/Charlotte O’Leary/Daf James/Stef O’Driscoll/Paines Plough & Theatr Clwyd


Jo Caulfield: Voodoo Doll – The Stand Comedy Club

Daliso Chaponda: Blah Blah Blacklist – CKP and InterTalent Group

Showstopper! the Improvised Musical – The Showstoppers/Something for the Weekend

Fishbowl – SIT Productions with Le Fils Du Grand Réseau

Beep Boop – Richard Saudek/Crowded Outlet

Special Mentions

Chris Dugdale – Down To One – Chris Dugdale Int Ents

Sexy Lamp – Katie Arnstein/Victoria Gagliano


Philip Caveney & Susan Singfield

Chris Dugdale: Up Close!


Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh

The three week blitz that is the Edinburgh Fringe is finally, tragically, coming to a close. On George Street, workers are already taking down the helter skelter and dismantling the outdoor bars. We can’t help feeling a twinge of sadness. For us, this is the busiest time of year, but also the most exciting. In all likelihood, the next show we see will be the last one of Edfringe 2018.

With this in mind, we’re not taking any chances. We want to be sure that our final show will be something that will amaze and delight us. We need a shot of something magical – and Chris Dugdale is a pretty safe bet to deliver the goods. Born in France, based in New York and a regular visitor to the Fringe, his shows combine dazzling sleight of hand, with mind bending manipulation and a slick, polished delivery. We love his droll delivery, his winning way with the people he brings onto the stage.

OK, so this year’s show incorporates many of the elements from last year’s – there are those complex card tricks, performed mere inches from disbelieving onlookers. There’s that little tin that somehow magically refills itself with different contents. There’s that thing he does with a Rubik’s cube… I mean, how? Somebody tell me how! And for 2018, he’s added a brand new illusion called ‘The Triangle,’ in which he manages to manipulate three people picked from the sell-out audience into arriving at the same conclusion.

It’s a phenomenally entertaining hour, so packed with incident that it sprints by like an athlete at full stretch. We gasp, we shake our heads, we applaud. And I tell myself that this year, there’s no way he’s going to make me put the tips of my index fingers together… no way at all. And once again, he makes me do it.

It’s already too late for me to urge you to go and see this show – but I’m looking forward to Edinburgh 2019.

5 stars

Philip Caveney



Edinburgh Fringe Magic Gala



Gilded Balloon Teviot, Debating Hall, Edinburgh

Ah, magic! With the weather in Edinburgh taking a sudden nosedive and the threat of Fringe fatigue constantly hovering in the background, a bit of magic is surely going to help matters – and what better way to sample it than this handy package, which offers visitors a taste of five different acts every day at 4.30pm?

Our host for the event is Elliot Bibby, voted Scottish Comedy Magician of the Year 2017. You can easily see why he won the title. He has a nice line in engaging patter (particularly in his interplay with a truculent audience member) and is very good at the old sleight of hand stuff. He takes the truculent one’s ten pound note, turns it into a worthless scrap of paper and hands it back to him. (Don’t worry, after a bit of persuasion, he changes it back again!)

The first guest is Tomas McCabe, who calls himself a mind reader. He brings a young woman up from the crowd and invites her to slam the flat of her hand down on a series of paper cups, one of which we are assured has a deadly metal spike hidden in it. To give the lady her due, she manages this without turning a hair, but most of the audience is holding its collective breath.

Next up is Polly Hoops, who  – as her name might suggest – does things with hula hoops (not the edible variety). She’s soon striding around the stage whirling several plastic hoops from various parts of her anatomy. It’s incredibly skilful and must takes hours of practice, but, I can’t help feeling, it isn’t really magic. ‘More like highly evolved PE,’ whispers Susan, and I have to agree with her.

Tom Crosbie is very quick to point out that he isn’t a magician either, just a full blown nerd. Mind you, what this man can do with a Rubik’s cube is nobody’s business and it certainly looks pretty magical. At one point he manages to ‘solve’ a cube while it’s in mid air. He assures us that anybody can do this provided they put in the requisite study time, which in my case would be 24 hours a day for the rest of my life.

The final act is Ben Hart and, happily, there’s no doubting this young man’s abilities in the abracadabra stakes. He performs an astonishing routine with a pack of cards, that keep getting smaller and smaller and smaller – until he’s able to blow them away in a puff of dust. He then borrows three rings from three members of the public and somehow manages to fuse them together. We have good seats near the front and I watch him like a hawk, but… no, no idea how he did that. Astonishing stuff.

All of these acts can be seen in their own shows elsewhere on the Fringe and, let’s face it, we all need a little more magic in our lives.

4 stars

Philip Caveney

Edfest Bouquets 2017


It was another fantastic three weeks at the Fringe for us. We crammed in as many shows as we possibly could – and still barely managed to scratch the surface. Here’s our pick of the best we saw this year. Congratulations to everyone mentioned.


Seagulls – Volcano Theatre

Peer Gynt – Gruffdog Theatre

The Power Behind the Crone – Alison Skilbeck

Safe Place – Clara Glynn

Pike Street – Nilaja Sun



The Darkness of Robins – John Robins

Kinabalu – Phil Wang

Dominant – John Robertson

Mistress & Misfit – Shappi Khorsandi

Oh Frig, I’m 50! – Richard Herring


Story Telling

One Seventeen – Sarah Kendall

These Trees the Autumn Leaves Alone – Will Greenway

The Man on the Moor – Max Dickins

Eggsistentialism – Joanne Ryan

Blank Tiles – Dylan Cole


Special Mentions

The Toxic Avenger: The Musical – Aria Entertainment & Flying Music

Up Close – Chris Dugdale

The Cat Man Curse – Pelican Theatre

Cathy – Cardboard Citizen Theatre

Well Meaning, but Right Leaning – Geoff Norcott

Chris Dugdale: Up Close


Assembly Rooms, George Street, Edinburgh

There’s no other explanation: Chris Dugdale is actually a sorcerer. He’s not a performer who’s learned a load of tricks; he can’t be, because some of what he’s doing is simply impossible. Okay, so he’s a showman and he plays along with the schtick, delivering a few crowd-pleasers that we’ve seen elsewhere and can conceive of what the trickery might be (although we still don’t know how, but we can’t have everything), but there are elements here that simply don’t make any sense – unless we accept that he’s a wizard of some sort.

I mean, I don’t know how he does that stuff with the Rubik’s cubes, but I can go along with the idea that it’s a relatively simple blend of maths or dexterity – or, indeed, trick cubes of some sort. But the tiny tin of Altoids that never leaves the table… I won’t give any spoilers, but THERE’S NO WAY A MERE HUMAN CAN ACHIEVE WHAT HE DOES HERE! 

This is the third time we’ve seen Dugdale perform, and he gets better every time (or maybe he’s just making us think that with his mind control techniques?). This year’s show, Up Close, is much more dazzling and show-bizzy; there’s an energy and pace that has us buzzing from the start. He’s clearly enjoying himself, and his enthusiasm is infectious: the crowd is lapping up his act.

If you’ve had a busy day and are feeling tired or lethargic, get yourself along to the Assembly Rooms and see Chris Dugdale if you can. He’ll have you pepped up and grinning within a few minutes – although he may leave you doubting everything you think you know…

5 stars

Susan Singfield


Edfest Bouquets 2016




It’s been another amazing August for us at Bouquets & Brickbats. We’re exhausted after a month of non-stop theatre and comedy! We have seen some absolutely fantastic stuff, covering a huge range of ideas. Here’s our pick of the best we’ve seen at this year’s Fringe:

Drama Bouquets

  1. Neontopia / Wales Millennium Centre – A Good Clean Heart by Alun Saunders
  2. Aurora Nova – The Blind Date Project by Bojana Novakovic
  3. Rainbow Class by Vivienne Acheampong
  4. Gaggle Babble / National Theatre Wales – Wonderman by Daf James
  5. Something for the Weekend – Royal Vauxhall by Desmond O’Connor

Monologue Bouquets

  1. NJC Productions – The Way the City Ate the Stars by Will Greenway
  2. George Dillon – Stunning the Punters (& Other Stories) by Berkoff, Sproat and Dostoevsky
  3. Lorenzo Novani – Cracked Tiles by Lorenzo Novani
  4. Impi Theatre Company – The South Afreakins by Robyn Paterson
  5. Berk’s Nest – Vaudeville by Tom Neenan

Stand-up Comedy Bouquets

  1. Bridget Christie – Mortal
  2. Sarah Kendall – Shaken 
  3. Loyiso Gola – Dude, Where’s My Lion?
  4. Garrett Millerick – The Dreams Stuff is Made Of
  5. John Robertson – Arena Spectacular

‘Ones to Watch Out For’ Bouquets

  1. Phosporos Theatre – Dear Home Office
  2. Chris Dugdale – Full Circle
  3. Flabbergast Theatre – Tatterdemalion
  4. Teateri – Evil by Jesper Arin
  5. Amy Howerska – Smashcat

Chris Dugdale: Full Circle




Assembly George Square, Edinburgh

‘I don’t believe it!’

I seem to be turning into Victor Meldrew. Those words have just tumbled, unbidden, from my lips. Because on a small stage, just a few feet in front of me, magician Chris Dugdale has made something impossible happen. And it’s just one of a whole series of impossible things. As I watch, entranced, objects vanish and reappear, cards mysteriously change suit, a scrambled Rubik’s cube appears to solve itself right in front of me. And it doesn’t stop there. There are also the mind control elements. One poor woman is manipulated into a state where she is unable to read a simple word on a card. A brief gesture from Chris and she can read it. Another flourish and once again, she’s tongue-tied. Don’t even ask about the bottle of wine…

We first encountered Chris Dugdale at last year’s fringe and were impressed by his show, but Full Circle is even better. Chris is a likable chap with a roguish air who has an easy rapport with his audience. He charms us, he baffles us and he sends us on our way asking each other, ‘How did he do that?’ Tricks appear to go wrong, but then he reveals that the illusion was way more complicated than we supposed. You thought we were doing this but… it was actually THIS! Cue the gasps of astonishment from everyone watching. ‘No way!’ I hear somebody whisper and I agree one hundred percent.

For a final close up magic routine, Chris invites a whole bunch of us onto the stage to witness his incredible sleight of hand techniques. I watch intently, determined to spot something… anything that will give me a clue as to how he is doing these unbelievable things. But there’s nothing. He must be made of magic. There’s simply no other explanation. One hundred years ago he’d have been burned as a witch.

If you see only one magic show at the fringe this year, go for Full Circle. Trust me, you won’t be disappointed.

5 stars

Philip Caveney

Chris Dugdale: Sleightly Dishonest



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?

4 stars

Philip Caveney