Festival Square Theatre, Edinburgh – until 7 January 2017
Guest reviewer: Hugh Simpson
Old-fashioned trickery and a well-known story combine with humour in A (sort of) Christmas Carol Magic Show at the Spiegeltent in Edinburgh – a seasonal offering that does not always gel but provides a great deal of entertainment.
Mr Morgan and Mr West – supposedly time-travelling magicians from the Victorian era, complete with frock coats and mutton chops – are in a quandary. The more curmudgeonly West just wants to perform a magic show, while the ebullient Morgan is eager to act out the story of A Christmas Carol, despite the lack of other cast members, and the fact that he doesn’t know the whole story.
What follows is a combination of Dickens, magic and comedy. In a running time of just under an hour, these three elements co-exist uneasily at times.
Too much time is spent on jokes about other Christmas stories, many of which fly straight over the heads of the younger audience members. Oddly for a festive show, the audience participation (resolutely panto-style sweetie-throwing aside) involves adults. If this is to prevent any torpedoing of the tricks, it does not necessarily work, as it proves just as easy for youngsters to shout out from the audience when they see how something is being done.
That few of the illusions are truly gasp-inducing does not matter. Indeed, many of the most effective moments are those that could be seen in other Christmas theatre shows, such as leaning over at impossible angles to simulate flying, or the delicate manipulation of the puppet of the Ghost of Christmas Past.
These work best because they are at the service of the story, while some of the other tricks have only a tenuous connection to the narrative.
The differing personalities of the pair, established early on, could also be used to greater effect; West’s identification with Scrooge leads to some affecting moments, but these possibilities are squandered. The comfortable onstage rapport between the two of them helps move the story along but leads to some easy choices, with too much business involving bickering or silly voices.
It is difficult to go far wrong with the source material, although it is dangerous to remind the audience of other versions of the story. While there is nothing earth-shattering here, this is a reassuringly traditional and involving seasonal entertainment, pitched just about right for anyone aged five and upwards.
Running time: 55 minutes (no interval)
Festival Square Spiegeltent, Festival Square, Lothian Road, EH3 9SR
Thursday 1 December – Satirday 7 January 2017
Daily (not 12, 19, 25, 26 Dec, 1 Jan) at 11.00 am; Friday 3.30pm; Sat/Sun, Tue 27 – Thurs 29, Thurs 5 – Sat 7: 1.30 pm.
Details and tickets: http://www.edinburghschristmas.com/whats-on/morgan-west-a-sort-of-christmas-carol-magic-show