Sunday, December 09, 2012

Piff, paff, puff - review of Piff the Magic Dragon

Piff the Magic Dragon at New Greenham Arts, Newbury on Thursday, November 8, 2012

IS he a magician? Is he a comedian? No... Piff is a dragon. The clue is in the name. Durrr.

He’s a rather grumpy dragon as it happens: emotionally scarred by his ex-wife; a petulant assistant on community service, and a love-hate relationship with sidekick Mr Piffles, an adorable Chihuahua, who gets far more attention than poor beleaguered Piff. And don’t mention his famous older brother - Steve. Sore point, that one.

Piff (real name John Van der Put - that took a bit of Googling to find out) performs magic mainly with two aims - firstly, to snare his very own princess (the dream of all dragons) by submitting an audience member to various fairy tale challenges, and secondly, to subject Mr Piffles to any number of death-inevitable stunts without invalidating his life insurance.

Piff is pretty good at the old magic thing, particularly when it comes to card and close-up tricks - as anyone who saw him attempting (and only just failing) to fool Penn & Teller on their ITV show could testify. He can also make the ever-obliging Mr Piffles disappear, and then resurrect him as a two-dimensional postable version.

But it’s the incongruous combination of his dragon get-up and a deadpan comedic style that makes Piff a little bit special. The children’s entertainer veneer of his act seems to make audience members particularly willing to participate both on stage and off, and even add to the comedy with their own responses to the whimsy. However, this is by no means a children’s act, with Piff having a distinct dark side as he enacts revenge on his ex-wife, and treats both Mr Piffles and stroppy assistant Amy Sunshine with weary disdain.

Piff didn’t find his princess in New Greenham Arts; his quest continues. If you see him on his travels, you’re welcome to give the delightful Mr Piffles a pat on the head - but do give Piff a little tickle under the chin as well. Dragons thrive on the attention. 

  • First published in the Newbury Weekly News on November 15, 2012

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