“How do you know what’s real?” asks Renz. And serves up an hour’s worth of magic entirely befitting the question. A playwright, a poet and a magician, Scots-Italian Renz is clearly a man a little bit in love with words. Having been discovered during a stint performing at the Citizens Theatre in Glasgow, he’s just finished touring the UK with his third show, a compelling combination of stories, his own poems and some incredible tricks. He’s a very welcome addition to Edinburgh’s International Magic Festival.
In this era of fake news, precisely what constitutes reality is a topical question. You decide what’s real, Renz concludes. And proceeds to boggle this audience’s collective mind with a series of demonstrations of things that couldn’t possibly be real. But they must be, right? He does some card tricks. He does the cutting the string thing – giving it a lovely twist (literally) by making it a yo-yo. Lots of audience participation. The mind reading is pretty confounding. Mind reading plus card trickery. Mind reading involving audience participation and Shakespeare’s collected works. Mind reading and – I shouldn’t spoil the surprise.
The conjuring is interspersed with a handful of Renz’s poems, apparently recited from a notebook, except they’re not. He’s a charismatic performer. Even with his nose in a book, the audience are attentive. He has an open, affable manner and that intangible “wish he was your friend” quality that the best performers seem to exude. He’s funny, appears entirely confident on the stage and entirely in control of a show that it’s very hard to imagine he actually can be.
His exploration of reality – or unreality – whisks us from asteroids and alien invasions to unpredictable wedding guests, lucid dreaming and his audience’s interpretations of magic. Maybe we all need to believe that impossible things are sometimes real. “Reality’s important”, he tells us, “but a little break from it now and then is great.” That, he terms “real magic”.
If you’re nit-picking, the stuff – the physical set – on stage could be executed with a little more panache. But this could be a deliberate choice, to offset the brow-furrowing how? of his tricks. And he could probably cut out a few of the words and make the show a little shorter to tighten it up.
In this carefully behaved land, you don’t often get an audience exclaiming aloud. But this show has people muttering at the marvel to their neighbours. And there must be a few jaws more than mine foolishly gaping at his final act. I have never seen such a thing, not on TV. And I’m on the front row. How?! You’ll have to stalk his show to find out.