Thursday, 7 August 2008

Fringe Review - Pete Firman: Flim Flam, Belly Button at the Underbelly, 06/08/2008

Magic, like so many other forms of entertainment, has undergone a radical rethink over the years. Like so many things before, it has been referred to as the "new Rock and Roll." So if Paul Daniels was the Val Doonican of the genre, we moved on to the Manilowesque gloss and glamour of David Copperfield, to arrive at the Kurt Cobain grunge of David Blaine. Pete Firman would clearly like to associate himself more closely with the latter of this trio, but it has to be said that underneath the surface appearances he has more in common with the first.

He starts well, employing shock tactics to get the audience squirming in their seats, hammering a nail into his own face and doing something with a maggot which defies description. But that seems to be a mistake, because he has nothing much to back it up, and for the rest of the set falls back on the old staples of making objects appear and disappear and appearing to predict the results of various "random" set-ups.

Even his big finale trick, in which he tries to present himself as being in great danger, is so obvious it is hard to believe that any audience member could not have been aware of how it was being done. And when he follows that up with a final "flourish" performing cutting the rope tricks that we all learned how to do at school, you can't really prevent your eyes starting to roll.

All that said, the tricks may be old and obvious, but the showmanship is quite definitely all present and correct. His banter is amusing, the little twists he puts on his stage equipment are fun, and the silly spoof tricks he performs to blind-side the audience are all pulled off well.

But in the end, it's just a magic show, and one that, the first ten minutes aside, offers very little that's new, and that is a problem. Firman is clearly a talented man, and he has had some television success recently and maybe he's just resting on his laurels a bit here. Flim Flam will keep you entertained for the hour you are watching it, but will probably leave you with a vague lack of satisfaction afterwards. Must try harder.

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