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Revolution in the Magic Square

magic squareWith Edinburgh Festival fast approaching, ones sympathies turn to those performers hastily putting last minute touches to what many will hope be career changing shows. I only ever did Edinburgh once (back in 1992 if you must ask) and can't really see myself doing it again. To some extent it is a young person's game.

So for that reason I particularly admire performers of my own age who are still prepared to venture North and face the potential lack of audiences attending, coupled with the inevitable indifference of ignorant reviewers.

One such brave soul is Ian Saville, who takes his show Revolution in the Magic Square up there this year. This week I saw its first outing. Sometimes the fates and times work kindly for us - and for Ian, who calls himself a 'Socialist Magician' - this deserves to be his moment.

die boxThe conceit of the show is that Ian has just become President of The Magic Square (any resemblance to The Magic Circle is purely coincidental) but his election was both unexpected and greeted with dismay by many. As a magician he feels he can defeat the untrustworthy 'Spiritualists' in a popular TV talent show, but there are dissenters in his own ranks determined to replace him with a Welsh outsider, precipitated by his unenthusiastic support of the International Guild of Magicians - which The Magic Square has just left, following a referendum of its members.

Hopefully by now you will have clocked the analogy with the predicaments of the Labour Party; and Ian embraces the similarities with relish. The empty Die Box is a perfect representation of the depleted shadow cabinet; whilst the eponymous Magic Square becomes symbolic (with the allied arts assisting him) of his initial election to President. 

corbynWhat gives it even more verisimilitude is that Ian could himself be mistaken for Jeremy Corbyn (audiences will probably assume he deliberately grew a beard for the show); and Ian amusingly blurs his own persona with that of the Labour leader. At one point he states that he had been accused of being anti-Semitic by some of his magical detractors. "How can I be?", he queries, "I'm Jewish myself." Which Ian indeed is.

Throughout Ian maintains a balance of self-deprecation and gentle send-up; his trademark ventriloquism with Karl Marx (now his rather exasperated political advisor) makes a welcome return; and there is a hilarious sequence (reminiscent of Tommy Cooper's routine of changing hats) with a vent dummy representing the right and left of the Labour Party arguing with each other. 

Ian would be the first to admit that his magic is not of the highest quality (although certainly good enough to puzzle and entertain the lay person). But in this case that is part of the charm of the show. Somehow it nicely mirrors the perceived incompetence of Corbyn as Labour leader. 

All in all thoroughly recommended if you are going up to Edinburgh this year.  Catch Ian at The Theatre Arts Exchange, from 6th to 14th, and 16th to 21st August: details and tickets here.  Guaranteed to remain topical - at least until September 24th!  

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