Cabaret & Variety review: Ben Hart: Belief?

Hart's performance is slick and he has a way with words. Picture: Adam Robertson
Hart's performance is slick and he has a way with words. Picture: Adam Robertson
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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: There’s more than one kind of belief involved in a magic show. There’s the belief that is suspension of disbelief: the willingness to be transported, to admit, for the sake of entertainment and enchantment, the possibility that you are witnessing something impossible even as, rationally, you know you are not.

Gilded Balloon Teviot (Venue 14)


There’s the belief that is narrative engagement: the investment you make in the tales magicians weave around the illusions they perform, whether that takes the form of a personal anecdote or an ancient legend.

And there’s the belief that is confidence in the performer: feeling secure that the person on stage knows what they’re doing and can do it well.

Ben Hart’s new show delivers handsomely on all fronts. In terms of confidence, he quickly and deftly establishes his authority through deceptively simple tricks carried off with elegance and charm. Hart’s persona is key to the show – playful yet edgy, sophisticated yet boyish, cheeky smirks alternating with wolfish snaps – and, when it comes to narrative, he has a powerful way with words.

His patter for individual illusions ranges from evocative family yarns to art history and quantum physics; at one point, he conspicuously withholds words. It’s all couched within an overarching sincere and passionate investment in the power of concealed knowledge.

And as a spectacle of enchantment, Belief? offers a crescendo of coups that leave you seriously stumped for a rational explanation.

Strange things are done with the backs and sides of cards, apparently shown in close-up on a live video feed. Things that shouldn’t happen do happen, in plain sight, to jewellery from the audience. There is some remarkable business involving shadows and a volunteer that would put Nosferatu to shame. Belief, unlike knowledge, is a choice. Belief? is worth choosing.

Until 27 August. Today 5:45pm.