EDINBURGH | GLASGOW | ABERDEEN | INVERNESS | DUNDEE | PERTH

Mr Swallow and the Vanishing Elephant

at Pleasance Courtyard

* * * - -

Sub-par magic routine saved by endearing silliness of its illusionist.

Image of Mr Swallow and the Vanishing Elephant

Nick Mohammed – aka Mr Swallow – is perhaps unique among Fringe magicians by achieving the titular trick of his show before it’s even begun. It’s anyone’s guess whether Hayley, the elephant which Mohammed was apparently very close to bringing to Edinburgh only for things to fall apart at the last hurdle, actually exists or is another screwball creation of his comedy mind, like his quirky Northern alter ego Mr Swallow. In a show which relies heavily on the magician’s charming incompetence for much of the laughter, the safe money is on the latter.

In the absence of said elephant, Mr Swallow attempts to pick up the slack with a variety of mediocre feats of sleight-of-hand and memory. There are a few genuinely impressive stunts, such as the levitating table or the square root of an audience member’s Wagamama bill, but they’re far outnumbered by crappy ones rescued by Mr Swallow’s incorrigible and lovable persona – the magnificent tissue box is a particular highlight. There are also a fair few tricks which don’t come off at all; in over-egging his ability to memorise high street restaurant menu prices, Mr Swallow ends up with some of it on his face, while a later attempt to recall the names of well over 30 audience members also falls a little flat. Ditto a tarot card trick that’s afforded far too much time when things don’t go exactly as planned.

Despite this – or perhaps because of it – the show isn’t a failure. With Mr Swallow’s schtick so dependent on him being a haphazard clown, it’s impossible to tell which tricks were doomed to disaster as part of the script and which punches he’s rolling with as the show progresses. Either way, it’s an entertaining enough hour thanks entirely to his busybody persona, but don’t expect to be blown away by either the comedy or the magic.