24 October 2009

French Connexion by James Chadier

Hi folks

As with everthing with this blog of late, this review post has been sitting waiting to be done for a wee while. In fact, this review has been waiting since about March to be posted! Well, better late than never - I hope!

James Chadier is a new name to me. In fact, other than the contents of this DVD, I don't really know much about this French performer. The DVD is, however, contains some really interesting ideas, moves and effects with an emphasis on very visual magic.

Produced, edited and directed by Mathieu Bich, creator of a number of phenominal effects, this DVD shows Chadier performing in cafes and bars in Paris for real people and then explaining the sleights and effects without the use of spoken word - some of the instructions are shown as on screen captions to clarify what is being seen. The explanations are concise and very clear.

Now, I'm not going to talk about every effect or move on this disk but I will mention a few of my highlights.

Palm Toss
Initially, it looked like he had refined the mistake that a lot of us make when first learning to palm a card where it springs out of the hand. He has, in fact, come up with some very visual and startling effects. The stand outs for me were the force and the sandwich effects.

Crossing Hands
A very visual Coins Across/Shadow Coins type routine in the style of Dean Dill.

Rubber Penetration
This could be described as a one band version of the Crazy Man's Handcuffs and fooled me very badly.

Easy Matrix
As it says, an easy matrix to watch and understand using 4 coins, 2 hands a good bit of cheekiness. Even though this uses a move I am not a fan of, I liked it for its simplicity.

Bluff Pang Cheng
This was shown as an extra phase to the routine that uses the Squeeze Toss, a sleight also taught on the DVD, but I loved it due to it being extremely cheeky. It passed my by completely. Very clever.

Fingertip Ascanio Spread
A method of fanning the cards at your fingertips with the same qualities as the Ascanio Spread. An interesting little item that may warrent further investigation.

The Bonus Material on this DVD is both entertaining - in the form of some out-takes and funny moments from the filming of the DVD - and informative - by way of a number of extra ideas for the sleights that are taught in the main feature.

One innovation that deserves a mention is Mathieu Bich's new "X-Ray View" during some of the explanation sequences. This is very helpful, especially while explaining the coin material on the disk.

I have very few real critisms about the DVD. There are a couple of things on the DVD that I was not convinced with in regards to their effectiveness. If I were to try them out, I may change that opinion. Also, with no verbal instruction, you really have to concentrate on what you're watching to be able to take all the information in.

Overall, I enjoyed this DVD. There is a lot of very visual magic and while not everything suited my performance style, there was more than enough to keep me interested.

You can find a trailer for the DVD below and order it from this page of Mathieu Bich's website.

Speak soon.

The Cardman :-)

14 October 2009

Some visits to the Edinburgh Fringe

Oh boy! Where do I start?

Hi folks and welcome back to the blog which was on a “can’t be bothered updating but when I can be bothered I don’t have the time” break. Apologies for the serious lack of updates eecently. I hope this post (and it’s a big ‘un too!) will help make up for those.

So, when last we spoke, I had just been to see the mighty AC/DC in concert at The National Stadium, Hampden Park in Glasgow. Since then I’ve been a few places but mostly Edinburgh. As regular readers (hi and thanks for being patient) may remember, I love going to Edinburgh during August for the Edinburgh Festival Fringe. It is a great opportunity to see a lot of shows in a short time – and to catch up with friends too. This year was no exception and I managed to go through 3 weekends in a row.

My first day in Edinburgh was, by far, the busiest. Four shows in a day and that’s not counting any of the street performers I saw. I had booked a ticket to go to one of The Pleasance’s 25th anniversary galas that were taking place on weekend afternoons through most of the Fringe. This particular show was hosted by Arthur Smith and had a line up including John Hegley, Simon Munnery and Hattie Hayridge (Holly from Red Dwarf seasons 3, 4 and 5!). Some really funny stuff and Arthur Smith told one of my all time favourite jokes during the show and recited a wonderful little poem entitled “Sock Lover”...

Sock Lover by Arthur Smith
I've got 47 socks
Including 11 pairs
Lovers come and wear my socks
Move on and leave me theirs

Here’s a red sock for example
Belonging once to Kim
She who now cooks lunch for Gary
This green sock belongs to him!

Every sock can tell a story
They have ambitions of their own
When I go out with two old favourites
Sometimes one does not come home

On my left foot there’s a white sock
On my right foot there’s a blue
Even though they smell somewhat
They make me think of you

People say odd socks is crazy
People say I'm queer
People say I've lost my marbles
Well I haven't I've got them here

I've got 47 marbles
Including 11 pairs
Lovers come and roll my marbles
Move on and roll me theirs

After the Pleasance, it was a short (but swift) walk over to the Gilded Balloon to go and see Jarlath Regan. Jarlath had been the find of last year’s Fringe and so I wanted to try to get to see him this year. I have to admit that I was really lucky to be able to see him perform as I got what turned out to be THE VERY LAST TICKET for that day’s performance of his show “Man Of Very Little Mystery”. I was not disappointed as it was an excellent show. Very, very funny stuff and if he’s performing anywhere near you, do not miss him!

Ian Kendall plugging his show to people in the Box Office queue

Ian giving one spectator a "magician's eye view" of the trick

A visit to the High Street (aka The Royal Mile) gave me a chance to catch up with my good friend Ian Kendall who was performing for people in the Fringe Box Office queue. I was going to see his show later that day, so after a wee while of watching Ian plugging his show, I continued my walk along the High Street and came across a young lady called Jennifer Ewan and a few members of the band “Tuberians” (pictured below) that she sometimes plays with who were in one of the alcoves performing some excellent songs. You should check them out, I think you’d like them.

My next show was part of the Free Fringe and involved a character called “Piff The Magic Dragon”. Actually, I knew what I was in for as I’ve known Piff’s handler, John, for a number of years. The only way I can describe Piff is to have you imagine comedian Jack Dee (for those of you not from the UK, please find him on YouTube) performing some excellent magic. The show was excellent and another hour passed in what felt like a flash.

Finally was my annual visit to Ian Kendall’s show. With this year being Ian’s 18th year performing on the Fringe, he decided to have a birthday party with the show being a look back at some of the pieces he’s performed in the past – as well as a couple of new items – starting all the way back where he started with the Cups And Balls routine that he performed when he started on the High Street. Another enjoyable hour from Mr Kendall which ended with Ian getting everyone up to dance to the theme to “Hawaii Five-0” – well, all except me as I couldn’t dance for laughing!

The following Sunday and I was back through in Edinburgh but this time, I didn’t have tickets to see any shows – I simply went along to meet up with friends and hang out for a wee bit. My first, and pretty much only stop, that day was back on the High Street where the majority of the street performing takes place. The day had started, however, by going to the blessing of my friends’ Kate and Ray’s baby, Amelia Julianna. Amelia was a very well behaved young lady and even I got to hold her for a while during the service, which Amelia seemed to sleep her way through.

Amelia looking amazingly cute

"If you take one more picture, I'm taking the camera!"

That evening, I went to see my good friend Paul Nardini performing a short set at one of the variety/burlesque shows at the Fringe. I may be somewhat biased, but he did an excellent set and the audience appeared to really enjoy what Paul did.

My final trip through was the following Sunday with another friend, Diane. She was visiting family for the weekend so we took the chance to go through to Edinburgh to catch a show or 2 and catch up. We went to the High Street where I watched a couple of lads performing a number of rock covers on ukuleles including System Of A Down’s “Chop Suey” and Lynyrd Skynyrd's “Freebird”. They’re name is Pocket Fox, with “Pockets” being the drummer for Jennifer that I had seen performing a couple of weeks earlier (see earlier in this post). They were brilliant and you should try to check them out.

Diane and Pockets

After that, we went to see what shows we could see that afternoon. We decided to get tickets to see stand up comic Jason Cook performing his show entitled “Fear”. This was another excellent show and another one that I would recommend to everyone. A very funny performer and a real good guy – keep an eye out for him!

Another good time in Edinburgh but I might try to get through for a few days in a row again next year. I’ll see what life brings me in the coming months.

Speak soon - I promise!

The Cardman :-)