The Writers’ Museum, in Edinburgh’s Old Town, just off the Royal Mile, is a wonderful museum that is dedicated to celebrating the lives and works of the Scottish greats – Robert Burns, Sir Walter Scott and Robert Louis Stevenson. This year’s Magic Festival uses the museum as a venue and a backdrop for the performances of John Henry Blackwood, Lewis Barlow, and Michael Neto.
John Blackwood begins by discussing Burns, the “heaven-taught ploughman” and talking about how each of our lives has its own story. Each story has events that we share and events that we keep to ourselves, our secrets. And these secrets become the backdrop for Blackwood’s performance which includes card tricks and some sleight of hand. Barlow talks a little bit about the life of Scott but themes his performance on how a world-class dealer “deals” his cards. His technique is very good, and elicited quite a few gasps from the audience. Finally, Neto (a.k.a Albert) slips effortlessly into his Mr. Hyde-esque “mad scientist” persona to play around with experiments of electricity, followed by some card tricks with a very eclectic deck.
Each magician performs in the corresponding author’s room, surrounded by their memorabilia. Rooms are very cosy and standing-room only. Each room also has classical music playing in the background, which definitely lends itself well to the air of mystery and intrigue. A couple of things to note, however. Even though the programme advertises 75 mins, the opening night only lasted for about 60 minutes, including introduction. Also, not all of the narratives were aligned closely to the authors. At some points, the narrative was forced and not tied to the performance itself.
Even so, this is a great way to spend an evening and it will be enjoyed by an audience of all ages. As always with magic shows, audience participation is vital. So be prepared to turn into the magician’s apprentice in turns and immerse yourself in an evening of wonder at a gorgeous venue.