The Macarena, Brexit satire and a room full of ribbons – not necessarily ingredients that spring to mind for a magic festival, but it’s typical of the kind of diversity on offer at the MagicFair experience. 7.30pm till midnight might seem like a long haul, but here the hours fly by and with eight acts performing a total of twenty five shows, it’s even a struggle to fit everything in. Those who wish to catch every single show – and those who don’t may regret not doing so – must arrive promptly and plan drink and food stops around show timings. Summerhall makes for a great venue for this kind of event and having each act playing in a different space, with the ability to choose what you do and when (a programme with show times and venues is provided on entry), feels much more of an adventure than watching a compilation in a large theatre.
The international range of acts offer high standard, varied entertainment with almost as many laughs as you’d expect at a comedy show and as many awe-filled gasps as you’d expect at quality magic shows. Vincent Gambini’s deadpan meta magic/comedy is a particularly clever and unusual offer. So also is Patrick Lehnen’s “scene”, in which he, by contrast to other acts, uses no words, but rather a combination of technology and illusions to create a whimsical, funny and visually enchanting piece. The acts are at the door as the audience files out, to shake hands and say goodbye, adding a warm and personal touch. Indeed, there’s an intimacy, friendliness and individuality to this festival that feels special.
The ribbon maze is a highlight. A simple but effective idea, it provides all ages with an immersive, interactive and sensory experience. As an adult, the opportunities to play and explore with childlike wonder and illusion can be scarce and it would be great to see much more of this kind of thing available in general. Here in particular though, it would be even better, to have a couple more rooms offering something similar. The fair would also benefit from a little more atmosphere in the eating and drinking areas – maybe some music or street performers (beyond the one magician who was available). This event is nevertheless great value, well put together with wide appeal and deserving of a firm place in Edinburgh’s festival scene.