Magician’s floating trick may be halted by council

Johan Lorbeer impresses onlookers during a performance in Chemnitz, Germany. Picture: Uwe Meinhold/AFP/Getty Images
Johan Lorbeer impresses onlookers during a performance in Chemnitz, Germany. Picture: Uwe Meinhold/AFP/Getty Images
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An illusionist who plans to perform a stunt at the Edinburgh International Magic Festival could fall flat after Edinburgh City Council officials may not allow his street theatre showpiece to go ahead.

Performed by German illusionist Johan Lorbeer, the trick is meant to show him defying gravity, seemingly suspended from a building by one insouciant, barely troubled arm – for hours.

But the Evening News can reveal this Edinburgh International Magic Festival showpiece could potentially hit the buffers. . . because it doesn’t have planning permission from Edinburgh City Council.

Its collision with red tape comes because it will be exhibited in public and because “apparatus” for the trick will require some construction work in the Royal Mile.

Concerns have been raised that by submitting a detailed planning application, Lorbeer could reveal many of the ­hidden secrets behind the ­illusion.

But it seems this clash with bureaucracy may be something of an occupational hazard for 21st-century magicians, as festival founder Kevin McMahon explained.

He said: “There’s always lots weird things like this that go on behind the scenes and lots of challenges.

“There’s a grounding that magic makes the impossible possible but unfortunately everyone has to abide by the laws of the land – in this case it’s planning”.

The Johan Lorbeer act – which inspired magician Dynamo’s bus-tour imitation – is featured in the festival programme as “To Be Confirmed” and “waiting on planning ­permission”.

Lorbeer is renowned throughout Germany for his ‘still-life’ performances. Many see him levitating in impossible positions – such as a street cleaner standing high above the street – or standing in mid-air “leaning” against a wall with one hand.

Organiser Mr McMahon, 33, said planning legislation was just one of the hurdles that have to be overcome by professional magicians.

He added: “We have had to deal with livestock issues in the past.

“There will always be challenges with cutting-edge shows.”

Running from June 27 to July 4, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival launches its fifth year on the theme “Open Up to Magic” – and has a strong home-grown element to the week-long bonanza.

Some of the world’s best magicians – jetting in from France, Spain, the US and South Korea – will kick-start the festival by performing in the showcase Gala Show at the Lyceum Theatre on launch day.

It boasts close-up magic and card tricks, spellbinding vanishing acts and mind-reading.

More than 5000 tickets are expected to be sold for events at ten venues.

Mr McMahon said: “This will be the biggest ever year. I don’t think we do ourselves any favours bringing over people who do the old cliched versions of magic.

“The stuff we do is more cutting edge. We want to push magic in that direction.

“There’s some really strong Scottish acts this year and more Scots in the main programme than we have ever had before so hopefully previous shows have helped inspire a generation of Scottish magicians to raise their game and drop the likes of top hats and bunnies.”

The magic festival confirmed planning papers for the Royal Mile stunt have not yet been lodged with City Chambers.

Decisions are normally made within eight weeks – 13 for more complicated cases – meaning there should still be time to get the green light ahead of the magic festival launch.