There’s no doubting the man’s way with a card trick. Juan Tamariz, with his grey flowing mane and red top hat, is magic’s equivalent of a Game of Thrones Maester – a wizened, wily old fella who looks like he has been practising his art for a thousand years. No way are you gonna catch him bungling the hidden card he has up his sleeve. And “El Maestro”, as he’s known in his native country, is clearly a Spanish legend, as the standing ovation he receives from an audience packed with his compatriots shows.
But there’s a cultural gulf to overcome, even in something as seemingly universal as magic, and on this, his first ever show in Scotland, the old school stage antics don’t necessarily translate well with those who aren’t already familiar with his character quirks. Imagine being asked to join in with Tommy Cooper’s “Just Like That” with no context and you’ll appreciate the minor irritation when he finishes each trick with his trademark flourish – a round on the air violin.
There are those too who might balk at his 1970s approach to audience interaction – ladies required to give him extra kisses and write their phone numbers on cards, men asked to stand down a step so not to make him look short. Well-meaning and essentially harmless, but with the connotations the behaviour of that era has for British audiences these days, it’s cause for some discomfort.
But when the show peaks with some tabletop card tricks, shot by camera from above, we see (or more correctly fail to see) the brilliant sleight of hand that he has perfected over a long career. There’s some genuinely perplexing deck reshuffling and cards appearing where they couldn’t be.
It’s also a nice touch when he introduces his wife Consuelo for some card tricks of her own, and, even though she speaks no English, and his is fairly broken, they work in a nice mistranslation gag.
At two hours long though, we’ve seen enough card tricks long before the end. It’s easy to understand why, as an international star, he’s been given both this showcase and the award he received at the previous night’s gala. For Magicfest, he’s a big deal. For Tamariz, Edinburgh is another international checkbox ticked. But unless you’re a connoisseur or a fan of the man as a character, it’s too much sameyness for one evening.