The Pleasance Cabaret Bar, Edinburgh, Tue 29 Jan
Can you actually imagine anything less appealing in the theatrical sphere than a magic act? All that showing off with handkerchiefs and bunny rabbits and saws and tasselled ladies is simply not what the comedy world was built for. Yet, increasingly, room has been made for the psychological illusionists and shock merchants who can both amaze and amuse us with tongues lodged in their cheeks and Phantom of the Opera masks locked in a drawer. The likes of Penn & Teller, The Amazing Jonathan, Derren Brown and Aberdonian duo Barry Jones and Stuart MacLeod have successfully changed the way we think of traditional magic acts.
Pete Firman is just the latest in this impressive line of genre-busters. Since first cropping up in 2002 on Five’s Monkey Magic (having sent in a tape of himself performing magic tricks outdoors in his underpants), he has flitted around the channels by doing Dirty Tricks on Channel 4 and trotting the globe on Sky One’s The Secret World of Magic. Soon, his handy knack of regurgitating live goldfish and digging maggots out of his eye was helping make his name. But (and I think we can allow ourselves to be over-elevated about this) only an appearance at the Edinburgh Fringe could seal his place in the entertainment vanguard. And sure enough, last year he popped our way to give us Hokum complete with scorched rabbits and needles through his arms, but without his former pièce de résistance, the swallowing of several lit cigarettes. He may still be barred from doing it here, but Pete Firman is definitely a hot property.