By trying to offer both magic and stand-up, Ali Cook finds himself caught awkwardly between the two. The ingenuity and diversity of Cook’s tricks, and the volume of skill required to conceive and execute them, are, without doubt, sources of entertainment and causes for admiration. (After all, it is not without reason that Cook has been featured on British television as often as he has). But letting the show down a little are Cook’s efforts to punctuate the show with comedy, which, although not poor, lack sparkle and disrupt momentum.
Cook puts five razor blades into his mouth, gargles, and then retrieves them with a piece of string, blood (ketchup) cascading all the while. Cook asks an audience member to write down an eleven digit number before revealing an Ikea store-card with the same number embossed upon it. Cook changes the colour of liquid in the blink of an eye, beheads a dove called Susan, conceives a goldfish, and does wonders with coins and cards. It is all quite impressive and beguiling.
And yet Cook had to occasionally announce when a trick was complete, and thus when applause was due, which only suggests that the audience had stopped paying complete attention. From this we might glean that the show could do with some old-fashioned editing: one pint of blood instead of three; half a dozen jokes instead of twenty; a little acceleration of delivery; a little clipping of edges. Such measures might then generate the impetus and levels of audience engagement that Cook’s abundant talent deserves.
So, although there is a wealth of conjuring and mind-reading talent on display here, and although Cook’s pugnacious English persona is often a decent medium through which to channel all this (with his quips about furniture, molestation and adopted elephants), the show didn’t quite have me riveted or wired. Perhaps Cook’s TV success owes as much to post-production wizardry as it does to his own magical skill-set.
2011 Adelaide Fringe Festival
Pieces of Strange
Venue: The Garden Of Unearthly Delights Adelaide
Dates/Times: 11-27 Feb (excl.14 & 18 Feb) at 9.45pm; 1-13 Mar at 11pm
Tickets: $25 (Conc, Tue & Preview 11 - 13 Feb $20)
Bookings: FringeTix - 1300 FRINGE (1300 374 643) | www.adelaidefringe.com.au