Theatre review: Paul Dabek presents Thurston, Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68), Edinburgh
PAUL Dabek is an award-winning young British magician, who has spent much of his career working the cruise-ship circuit. Along the way, he’s not only refined his magic skills to a very high level indeed, but also developed into a fine actor.
Paul Dabek Presents Thurston
Voodoo Rooms (Venue 68)
Star rating: * * * *
Both these bow-strings are deployed – together with Russ Tunney’s excellent script – to conjure the ghost of his illustrious professional forebear Howard Thurston (1869-1936), renowned as America’s greatest magician for over 30 years, during the craft’s golden age.
Dabek/Thurston appears to us as if in the present day, a long-departed spectre haunting an abandoned theatre, resignedly acknowledging how his name has faded from memory.
Thurston’s life-story broadly frames the piece – from his unhappy childhood and delinquent adolescence, via self-taught card tricks to international stardom, complete with a travelling stage show that filled eight railroad freight cars with props – and several insouciantly jaw-dropping magic routines supply the showstopping moments.
But it’s Tunney’s psychological, philosophical and metaphorical exploration of such inherent issues as belief, illusion, collusion, truth, deception and magic itself that weaves the strongest spell.
These themes, and the tricksy, intriguing interplay between them, emerge wholly naturally and beguilingly from the material, creating a dynamic engagement with the audience – as we’re prompted to reflect on our own motives, expectations and emotions in being there – which goes much further than volunteer participation in the actual tricks.
Dabek delivers a performance of absorbing fluency and understated charm and, while his delineation of different characters (among them Thurston’s still-celebrated contemporary Houdini, commenting on his rival’s prowess), could at times be sharper, this is a minor quibble in a richly enjoyable show, which, as the icing on the cake, costs nothing to get in.
• Until 25 August. Today 4:15pm.
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Thursday 20 June 2013
Temperature: 12 C to 21 C
Wind Speed: 7 mph
Wind direction: South east
Temperature: 11 C to 19 C
Wind Speed: 12 mph
Wind direction: West