Monday, July 25, 2011

Masters of the dark arts - review of Barry & Stuart

Barry and Stuart Live at Arlington Arts, Snelsmore, on Thursday, June 30

TWO cheery and handsome young Scotsmen, Barry Jones and Stuart MacLeod have known each other since their early teens, when they were arch rivals in the Scottish Young Magician of the Year competition. The result is one of those double acts that work so well together that you can’t imagine them ever being parted (unless it was during a sawing-in-half stunt). It is also eerily impossible to remember which one is which, although I tried to seal it into my memory while watching the show. I reckon they played some sort of mind trick on me.

Too rambunctious to be truly spooky, the duo focus on making the dark side of magic a jolly affair, and in the process have made conjuring cool for a new generation (although I suspect their funky haircuts help as well). Championed by none other than Derren Brown, they have reached tellyland prominence through primetime Saturday night BBC1 show The Magicians, and are world-renowned, having won the Best Comedy Illusionists gong at the World Magic Awards in 2009.

Their tricks were a joyful mix of gore, gasps, slapstick and reverential nods to the more intriguing traditions of magic and the so-called supernatural. Particularly mindblowing was a “white noise” video played, in which a spooky face appeared when viewed through the camera on a mobile phone. They have a similar trick available on their BBC Three website at Give it a go - it’s genuinely eerie.

My only niggle would be that it might have been fun to have selected those sitting beyond the front row to be audience participants (although I was relieved to be snugly ensconced out of the danger zone). But the twosome’s magical appearance in the foyer before the audience had filed out of the packed auditorium, and their willingness to oblige with photos and autographs meant that none of their many fans had to miss out. Delightfully silly, this pair proved that magic doesn’t have to be inaccessible to be exciting.

  • First published in Newbury Weekly News on Thursday, July 7

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