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Piff The Magic Dragon: Last Of The Magic Dragons

Note: This review is from 2011

Review by Steve Bennett

‘I’m a purist,’ deadpans Piff The Magic Dragon, as he professes his hatred of gimmicks… while standing before us in a shiny green dragon costume, his similarly-clad levitating chihuahua sidekick not far away.

Deadpan isn’t much used in magic. David Blaine might be a miserable sod, but generally conjurers want to sprinkle some showbiz razzmatazz over everything they do. Not so much Piff, who’s depressed and lonely, bitter that his wife and assistant has left him, and grumpy about the amount he’s had to spend on every prop.

It’s an appealing persona, even if he hasn’t quite nailed it yet. A couple of years ago, as he emerged onto the scene, his quiet nervousness made him endearingly vulnerable, but now, as his confidence on stage has grown, he can’t rely on that, and sometimes – shock! – seems to actually be enjoying himself. No, no, that will never do…

He’s even outdone in gloominess by his new ‘work-experience’ assistant, Amy Sunshine, who’s never in fear of cracking an expression, although we do have the canine Mr Piffles, as cute as a button made of rainbows, to offer some joy.

Between the tricks, Piff’s tosses out a few original, but enjoyable cheesy, puns, while a couple of attempts at more up-do-date observational stand-up, such as his routine about the 98p Store, are less well-judged. He has a nice distain for his audience – and, indeed, his equipment. One of the funniest moments comes inadvertently, as, after several attempts to get a hidden gizmo to work, Piff grumpily scatters out the cards by hand, muttering under his breath at the wasted money.

It’s not the only thing to go awry… a complex three-part ‘guess-the-card’ trick is only 66.67 per cent successful – although it’s very impressive how he can correctly call a good dozen or so cards scattered around the audience. Budget constrains require his tricks to be low-key, but such modest means fit that downbeat attitude.

There are a couple of tricks that are especially out of the ordinary. Given his draconic persona, Piff teases Scotland’s no-smoking-on-stage laws with a playful routine, while a close-up piece with tiny finger puppets is milked for a strange pathos.

Aptly enough for a fire-breather, Piff is sure to warm you to his downbeat charm.

Review date: 25 Aug 2011
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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