Magic review: John Archer, Traverse Theatre

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John Archer introduces himself as a comedy magician. But if you think that means a crusty card manipulator with a dodgy line in patter, you couldn’t be further from the reality.

Firstly, the humour is razor sharp. There are genuine belly laughs as Archer smoothly slides from gag to gag. Secondly, if this is conjuring, then I will eat my top hat.

Appearing as part of the increasingly popular Edinburgh International Magic Festival, Archer is one of the stars of the popular hidden–camera children’s TV programme Help! My Supply Teacher is Magic. He also won a trip to LA where he opened for master magicians Penn and Teller after he had met their challenge and fooled them on British TV.

When Derren Brown wanted an entertainer for a private function, it was Archer’s charm, wit and magical skills that he called upon.

So he’s no slouch when it comes to producing quality entertainment.

His is an act that consists, not of bog-standard magic tricks, but of quality demonstrations that leave the audience slack-jawed in amazement.

For example, audience members pass around a die and peek at the number each has thrown. By simply asking a number of seemingly unconnected questions, Archer can tell each and every one of them the number they are thinking of. How is that possible?

Blindfolded with coins, a sleep mask and his head swathed in gaffa tape, he can reveal what people have drawn in secret. Now, that’s no magic trick, surely. It has to be witchcraft, delivered with a grin.

What Archer produces is a series of well-paced effects that are beyond those of the sleight-of-hand artist. This is as close to true miracles as it’s possible to get without tipping over the edge. It’s real magic.

And yet all the time, he plays down the impossibility of what he’s doing by spiking his delivery with hilarious jokes and japes.

The combination is powerful and incredibly entertaining; a bit like Archer himself.

The show may be called Forget About the Tricks, but the audience are going to remember the tricks – and Archer – for a long time to come.

Rating: *****