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





Assembly Theatre, George Square

Let’s face it, it wouldn’t really be the Fringe without a bit of magic, would it? And it certainly wouldn’t be the Fringe without clowns. Korea-based company, Snap, have had the brilliant idea of splicing the two traditions together to create something unique: a delicious blend of traditional magic, slapstick and state-of-the-art lighting effects that really is enchanting in the truest sense of the word.

Three clowns lead us through a mysterious doorway that takes us to four totally different acts –  and they are each, in their own way, truly accomplished. There’s The Florist who does the most amazing sleight-of-hand card tricks; The Achemist, who does things with sand that you really won’t believe; The Oddball, a juggler (and if that sounds underwhelming, don’t be fooled) and finally, The Dreamer, who… well, words fail me. You’ll really need to see that one for yourself. Suffice to say that, unless you’re the grumpiest person on the planet, you’ll be as thrilled as we are.

It’s all performed to music so there are no language barriers to get through, the material is anodyne enough to make it suitable for family audiences, and it’s precision-planned down to the last detail. If you only see one magic act at this year’s Fringe, this may be the one to go for, especially if you have youngsters in tow.

Oh, by the way, that sound you keep hearing? It’s people gasping in disbelief. Enjoy.

4.6 stars

Philip Caveney

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