One of the great pleasures in life is to sit down with a group of disparate people, brought together by a congenial host, to tuck into a well-prepared dinner, washed down with charm and chat.
So, as you might expect, there is a fringe show for that, too, thanks to the clever people at Edinburgh company Rogue Compass. But At The Illusionist’s Table is more than a great dinner at the Scotch Malt Whisky Society – home to a mouth-watering number of exclusively bottled, cask-strength single malts and a very solid kitchen department. The congenial host is none other than magician and mentalist Scott Silven. And the meal is greater than the theatre of its ingredients, it is the theatre of Silven’s brilliantly designed magic illusions, which run between courses and arch over the whole evening.
Here, by way of an appetiser for the meal, is chat with young Mr Silven himself, brought to us by the very talented Kolbrún Björt Sigfúsdóttir.
Silven has had a keen interest in illusion from a really young age, which continued through studying theatre. He knew that he wanted to be involved in the arts, but wasn’t sure what path to take.
“Just before I graduated, I received a call from David Blaine’s assistant,” he says. “Apparently, David had seen one of my short videos that I used to post to YouTube, and wanted to get in touch. He called me very late one night- I think he was flying back from New York- and we had a brief, but profound conversation.
“He told me he had been passed on my video, that he was moved and inspired by the style of illusion that I presented, and told me that this is what I should continue to do as a performer. I think that was the exact point that I realised that this was what I wanted to do with my life and would work to make it happen.”
Naturally curious and always questioning everything as a child, Silven was about five when his grandad showed him what he calls a “simple” effect and he was hooked. In fact, he says that his grandad has been a huge influence in his work.
“After an initial interest in traditional magic effects, I was seduced by mentalism,” he says. “I believe it came from reading Roald Dahl’s Henry Sugar when I was 10 or 11 and imagining the fantastical things the character could achieve and the remarkable ways he would inspire people.
“I began to take the craft more seriously when I was 15. I travelled to Milan for a few weeks to study hypnosis there, and from there it felt habitual – that this type of performance is what I wanted to focus on.”
Scott Silven at the Illusionist’s Table. Photo credit Mihaela Bodlovic.
Silven uses his background in theatre and illusion, coupled with a passion for psychology and his knowledge of hypnosis, to create immersive theatrical experiences.
“For me, mentalism is the purest form of magic,” he says. “It happens inside the audiences own heads, and, naturally, this can affect them in the most remarkable of ways.”
The craft of magic has a rich library of texts and confidantes to influence and motivate its practitioners, those who are initiates into its secrets and hidden knowledge. Silven says that he draws on these, but increasingly find sinspiration in the world around him.
“This feeds into all my passions: design, music, photography, and architecture, especially the city of Edinburgh itself. From the hidden streets to secretive closes, it is a place that suggests untold possibilities.”
While he enjoys the dynamic nature of devising a theatre show, Silven also relishes the “individual and intriguing explorations” that developing his own shows can offer. At the Illusionist’s Table brings a bit of both worlds.
“At The Illusionist’s Table is a collaborative effort between myself and Helen Milne, who is the Artistic Director of our theatre company,” he says. “She brings a potent team together to make the production run effectively, and directs the performance as well, so I’m now finding an satisfying crossover between my theatre work and other show developments.”
Not content with the one performance at the fringe, every day, Silven is also appearing at the Dome on George Street in Wonders At Dusk, a show which draws on his own life and asks the audience to consider what makes them who they are. It show explores the uniqueness of each and every person in the room.
“We’re all driven by memories, decisions, relationships, and dreams,” says Silven. “The show investigates these aspects of ourselves, how they make us who we are and how they will continue to shape us. I would hope that what defines me is my creativity, my passion and innate drive to create.
“My primary objectives for the show are to delight, to astonish, and, ultimately, to inspire. It’s always about so much more than simple escapism. You’ll hopefully find yourself, your family or friends doing things you never thought were possible. It should make you look closely at your own life and consider what motivates you and what you’re capable of, all whilst enjoying some great drinks in spectacular surroundings.”
At The Illusionist’s Table
The Scotch Malt Whisky Society, 28 Queen St, EH2 1JX, Venue 182
Fri 5-Mon 29 August 2016 (Not Monday 8 & 22)
Start Time: 19:00 (2hrs 30mins)
Ticket Price: £59 (Includes a 3 course meal & 2 drams of single cast whisky)
Wonders At Dusk
The Dome, 14 George Street, EH2 2PF. (Venue 287)
Fri 5- Mon 28 August 2016 (Not Mondays).
Start Time: 22:30 (1 hr.)
Ticket Price: £15