Since its inception in 2010, the Edinburgh International Magic Festival has been going from strength to strength. With an array of events offering something for even the most cynical and disinterested, it has won a deserved place in the Edinburgh Festival calendar.

That said, I found this year’s closing Gala a little disappointing, especially in comparison to the previous one. While there were undoubtedly many highly skilled performances, there were a few moments where tricks seemed to go slightly awry. The most notable was during the headline act, Marko Karvo, when a parrot appeared to get stuck, giving away a ‘magical’ reveal by squawking loudly while trapped in the magician’s silk handkerchiefs designed to conceal its existence.

The sight of birds flying through an auditorium, while impressive, seemed a little old fashioned, and I couldn’t help but feel uncomfortable seeing live creatures as part of a performance. Not as uncomfortable however, as I felt about the traditional magician’s assistant (also part of the headline act). Magic is heavily male dominated, noticeably so during a festival such as this, but where women are involved it seems a pity that they are consigned to roles which involves coquettish posing and standing looking pretty (all while quietly doing most of the work) while a man takes centre stage. I wonder what message that sends to the many impressionable young people in the audience?

In 2017, it would be really nice to see a role reversal in a high profile act such as this, where it becomes equally commonplace to see a female magician assisted by a male. This is not an indictment on MagicFest, but rather an observation about the profession in general. We need to see more women taking an interest and becoming prominent on the magic circuit, something which I’m sure the MagicFest could help encourage and nurture.

But on to the good points – and there were many. Kevin Quantum brought plenty of fun as a charming, talented and very able host, interjecting with tricks, wit and juicy science nuggets.  While Cubic Act, Les  Chapeux Blancs and Bertox offered mesmerising visual illusions, a contrast and unexpected highlight came in Alan Hudson’s simple, yet very funny set. Entertaining, warm and joyously silly, Hudson’s mixture of comedy and magic was thoroughly enjoyable and had the whole audience at the Festival Theatre in fits of laughter. Aaron Crow made us laugh too with his wordless humour, but also drew astounded gasps, with impressive stunts framed perfectly by his theatrical, dramatic style. MagicFest Gala always offers a varied range of acts and while this time I found some of them less appealing, it was nevertheless a night of strong and family-friendly entertainment.

Photo by Matt Turner.

For more on Edinburgh International Magic Festival, which concluded on 8th July, click here.