Ben Hart – The Vanishing Boy
Ben Hart soho portrait

Edinburgh Festival Fringe Scotsman review (cabaret): Ben Hart – The Vanishing Boy at Underbelly, Cowgate (Venue 61). Review by Ben Walters

Ben Hart soho portrait

The Scotsman’s review of Ben Hart’s Fringe debut last year noted that the the charismatic and talented young illusionist’s work had “made for TV” all over it. And, hey presto, so it has proved, with numerous on-screen appearances materialising over the past 12 months. Still, when it comes to magic, you can’t beat being in the same room and, in The Vanishing Boy, Hart delivers another highly impressive hour of technical excellence and irresistible charm.

A magician is a storyteller first and Hart structures his show around the tale of a late-night visitation from a mysterious boy in Victorian attire with apparent connections to a great illusionist of the past. On this thread are hung a series of devilishly clever routines.

Hart’s conspicuously slender and dextrous fingers make his sleight of hand a treat to watch close-up, whether he’s manipulating cards or ping-pong balls, or simply folding a towel into a very unusual shape. Familiar tricks involving newspapers and rope are confidently handled but there are terrific unfamiliar routines too, which have you leaning forward incredulously. In one, ropes threaded through pieces of wood seem to be connected across space; in another, copper pots seem to fill with water of their own accord.

The show I saw had its share of slip-ups and technical hitches but their impact was small because of Hart’s confident assurance. With a mischievous grin, there’s no doubting his own enjoyment; he’s at once eager for attention and a boy with a secret. His patter reveals his fascination with the fundamental appeal of magic shows: the slippery relationship between what we hear, what we think we see and what we take away; “what we experience and what we remember”. In the case of The Vanishing Boy, the memories are good.

Until 24 August. Today 4:40pm, more info

Originally published in The Scotsman

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