Piff the Magic Dragon is about as cute as a dragon can get, I imagine. His shiny green suit and mischievous winking eyes enabled him to get away with a few tricks going awry in front of a less than ideal sized audience.
Piff, Englishman John van der Put, took the Edinburg Fringe Festival by storm in 2009 and has been wowing audiences ever since. Unfortunately I don’t think the intimacy of the Butterfly Club is quite the right venue for Piff and his particular brand of magic. With only half the seats filled (and those familiar with the Butterfly Club will know how dishearteningly small an audience that is), the resulting energy levels made for a fair amount of work from van der Put to keep the momentum of the show going.
Sitting in the Butterfly Club’s theatre is akin to being in someone’s (small) loungeroom; proportions that don’t lend themselves well to allowing a magician to hide the mechanics of his tricks from the audience. This is a shame because van der Put is a talented trickster. His mind reading tricks are reminiscent of mind reader extraordinaire Phillip Escoffey, but because van der Put’s delivery is in a laconic, deadpan style some of the impact of the tricks is lost. The audience focused on the jokes and the deadpan sarcasm more than the magic and perhaps overlooked just how impressive the magic really was. Which was a shame, and possibly something unique to an Australian audience.
Van der Put did seem a tad nervous and things did not always work as they should. I’m guessing he had to downscale his show in order to travel to Australia (and play at such small venues) which perhaps didn’t allow the show to work as well it normally would. To his credit van der Put is a fast-thinking, witty comedian, obviously able to keep an audience on its toes and respond to the nuances of an individual crowd on any given night. He’s fun and irreverent and the show has a great blend of stand-up comedy and magic. Some of his ‘throw away’ lines are a hoot.
Piff-Tacular: On The Road is a fun hour of good, solid entertainment. But I have a feeling the audiences at the Butterfly Club didn’t see Piff at his best. I’d certainly pay to see him again.
Piff the Magic Dragon
Piff-Tacular: On The Road
Venue: The Butterfly Club | 204 Bank Street, South Melbourne, Victoria
Dates/Times: 3 - 5 March, 2011 @ 9pm