Review: War Of The Wizards, Scottish Storytelling Centre

For those of us who never progressed past the first trick in the Paul Daniels junior magic set, mastering the sleight-of-hand required to convincingly fool the public takes an admirable level of dedication on behalf of today’s practitioners. ***

With a slot at next year’s festival up for grabs, the four contestants were allotted just eight minutes each to exhibit those skills.

Now in its third year, the contest not only serves as an open competition, but also as a showcase for up-and- coming talent in the industry, with a high standard of technical ability and some promising talent on display.

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Opening act and eventual winner, Aussie Tony Roberts, used his opportunity to perform just one trick, pairing ripped playing cards in the elaborate and impressive “Last Two Cards Match”. The Fringe regular had an answer for all eventualities too, with a good line in stand-up to keep things ticking along.

Peter Aubrey then examined four branches of magic, with quick examples of each. A neat trick with an invisible pack of cards was intriguing, but the illusionist failed to strike up a rapport with the crowd and rounded things off with a pedestrian – and fairly obvious – finale.

Award-winning conjurer Woody the Magician used Chinese linking rings in a series of tricks demonstrating some deft manipulation, although you were left with a sneaking suspicion that there were a couple of genuine mishaps amongst the Glaswegian’s intentional mistakes, while eighteen-year-old Chris Dougall’s range of close-up card play was smart and sharp.

Winner of Young Magician of the Year at last year’s MagicFest, he was brimming with enthusiasm, although he could have explained some of his ruses a little more succinctly. Fresh from appearances on Britain’s Got Talent and Penn and Teller: Fool Us, respected mentalist Colin McLeod took on compering duties, ensuring everyone was in a receptive frame of mind for the afternoon’s entertainment by guiding the room through some amusing logic-defying physical actions.

It’s just a pity that the ten-minute interval for the judges to pick a winner over-ran significantly, resulting in one last notable, but unwelcome trick – making many of the audience members disappear.