Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

Magic is, bluntly, magic. Start to finish, top to bottom. Set during the end days of an amateur magic society, and treading the same deadpan absurdist vein as The League of Gentlemen, it manages to find comedy in tragic circumstances.

The cast is amazing, led by Jane Horrocks as Felicity. In mourning for her great love Pedro; desperate to return to the perfection of the Society's 1989; domineering, overweening, conniving, a Machiavellian Debbie McGee. Thrust into power by the death of the Society's "Great Illuminator", she plans to use 'The Dream Cabinet' to achieve happiness. Then there's Ricky Grover as Gary, bringing his usual mixture of beefy desperation and unhinged physicality. Grover Veterans Moya Brady and Perry Benson are Brenda and Nigel, the suburban stalwarts of the society. Wilfred Taylor is her nephew Henry, trying to do the right thing in difficult circumstances, made even harder because he's stepped into a dead man's sequinned jacket.

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There are some note perfect elements including the impeccably dated 'Dim Sum and Dumpling', "not everyone's cup of tea in the Eighties". An animated sequence by Cako Facioli that's as striking and well-used as the tale of the Deathly Hallows is one of the more noticeable neat touches, but there are others - electrical warning labels, flourishes of 'showmanship', dramatic chords during a confrontation provided by leaning across the intervening piano.

John Williams' direction is good, managing to make stage magic look like stage magic while using screen magic to make photographs come alive. Nick Mohammed's script is sometimes a little heavy handed, but in other places it's delightfully subtle. William's directed 2009's Paraphernalia which similarly mixed live action and animation, but here the intent and tone are different though the execution is as good. There are some moments where it seems the cast might have been carried away, but they all appear to have been having fun. Their performances are highlighted by great technical work, but given that this is part of Channel 4's Coming Up scheme that's not surprising. Dan Parry's score should be mentioned, firstly because of the variety his work on Coming Up 2011 demonstrates but also for the, let us say 'homage' to Visage's Fade To Grey that forms a key part of Felicity's flashback.

Humorous, haunting, handkerchief-conjuring, Magic demonstrates a twisted comic sensibility that enchants.

Reviewed on: 16 Jul 2011
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A glimpse into the lives of a troupe of stage magicians trying to keep the magic alive.

Director: John Williams

Writer: Nick Mohammed

Starring: Jane Horrocks, Ricky Grover, Moya Brady, Perry Benson, Wilfred Taylor

Year: 2011

Runtime: 23 minutes

Country: UK


EIFF 2011

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