An Interview with Keith Brown

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The internationally renowned wizardry of Mr Keith Brown will soon be sparkling around Vancouver. The Mumble caught up with the fellow for a wee blether…


Hello Keith, so where ya from & where ya at, geographically speaking?
Keith: I am from London, Ontario but I recently relocated to Toronto.

When did you first realise you were, well, magical?
Keith: Probably when I was 13. It’s when I got my first gig as a magician performing at a local pub down my street. I had already been doing magic for a few years but it was more of a hobby. It was around this time that I realized I was doing something special and that I could really pursue this as a career instead of just for fun. It was also when I realized how incredible lucky I was to be able to find my passion and have the support necessary to pursue it. Not everyone finds their passion let alone at such an early age.

This is your 28th time performing at a Fringe festival, having toured the world in the process. Do you think the appetite for magic is different in different countries, or is there a universality to what you do?
Keith: I think that magic is a universal language. Sometimes it’s best not to say anything at all and let the magic speak for itself. However, there are definitely cultures where magic plays a greater role and has a bigger cultural significance. I was recently in Africa and had to be careful of who I performed for in case they took it the wrong way. Where as in Asia magic is very much ingrained in their culture.

How did performing in front of the First Lady of Iceland turn out?
Keith: She sat front row with her 5 and 7 year old. They had a great time! I honestly still can’t believe it happened and all I did was have the courage to send an email and invite them.

You know a good show when its happened, what are the special ingredients?
Keith: Everything just clicks and it’s a well oiled machine. I think the special ingredients are being mentally and physically prepped. There’s nothing worse than doing a show sick or on zero sleep. Also, a willing audience. An audience that’s ready to have fun, participate and enjoy mystery. It’s a lot harder to win over an audience when they don’t want to be there. However, I find that’s rarely the case at Fringe. Standing behind the curtains and hearing the roar of the audience before you even walk out is usually a good indicator.

What does Keith Brown like to do when he’s not being, well, magical?
Keith: I like to travel, hang out with friends and family. My show is rather high energy so I enjoy my down time and doing something low key like seeing a movie, trying new food or grabbing a drink. I like learning new things, challenging myself and seeing the magic in everyday life.

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You’ve got three famous figures from history coming round for dinner. Who would they be & what would you cook; starter, mains & dessert?
Keith: I’d invite Steve Martin, Gary Vaynerchuck and Dai Vernon, arguably the most influential magician in the last 100 years, and someone who has deeply influenced my thoughts and approach to magic. Runners up would be Elon Musk, Einstein, Kevin Heart, Howard Thurston, Johann Nepomuk Hofzinser, Salvador Dali & Jim Carrey. I already have a hard time deciding what I want to eat, but… Steak & goat cheese salad with a balsamic vinaigrette. Barbecued pears with blue cheese, pine nuts and dried cranberries. Make your own pizzas because who doesn’t love a good pizza? Dirt pie, dutch apple pie and vanilla ice cream. I am a child trapped in a man’s body.

If your performance style was a soup, what would be the key ingredients?
Keith: This interview is making me hungry. I’d go with a homemade hearty chicken noodle soup. Something that’s satisfying and filling, plenty of veggies and with the right amount of spice.

Do you find it difficult or easy to blend storytelling with magic?
Keith: Yes and no. Some tricks or effects can stand by themselves and don’t need a story. They are the story. However, others can really benefit from a story to take it to another level. To make it more than just a trick and give it some meaning. The hardest part is finding a story worth telling and pairing it with the correct trick. It’s also hard to find a story that fits my voice, my personality and my character. I see and come up with tricks all the times that don’t fit my performance style and would be better suited for another magician. Some of the stories I do tell in the show have taken a life time to develop, and I am still tweaking them.

You will soon be performing at the Vancouver Fringe – what have you got for us this year?
Keith: I have an interactive magic and story telling show that features the story of how I got to perform at a Stanley Cup party before I could even drive a car, as well as the trick that put me in the hospital. There’s everything from mind reading, feats of memory and magic classics. It’s magic with every day objects that you can find around the house or get from the store. It’s participatory magic that the audience helps create!

You’ve got 20 seconds to sell your show to somebody in the street, what would you say?
Keith: I was chosen Toronto’s BEST Magician and I am not even from Toronto. I was featured on TEDx and am a best selling author. I have been doing this for over 16 years, longer than I haven’t, because I love it and hopefully you’ll enjoy it just as much as I do!


Absolute Magic

Studio 1398

September 7 @ 5:00 PM (Half Price Tickets!)
Sun, September 9 @ 7:45 PM
Mon, September 10 @ 10:15 PM
Thu, September 13 @ 6:45 PM
Fri, September 14 @ 8:45 PM
Sat, September 15 @ 3:00 PM

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www.AbsoluteMagic.ca

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Void

Mele Broomes in Void at Summerhall, Edinburgh. Photo: Tom Forster


V/DA and MHz in association with Feral
Summerhall
August 14-26


Part of the Made in Scotland showcase, VOID is one-woman dance performance based on J G Ballard’s Concrete Island, and reimagined from the perspective of a Black woman, Angela. Concrete Island was the second in an urban disaster trilogy with a white, male, middle class protagonist facing his internal psychological demons after a car crash. The environment remains harsh and sterile, as Angela is trapped alone in an industrial landscape rendered harsh by inspired lighting and sound effects inextricably entwined with the frenetic, disturbing choreography. Ballard’s cool prose has been replaced by a vibrant physical retelling of entering the terror of a psychological void. The script is not just flipped, but turned inside out, showing us what could be termed the ‘negative’ of the privileged, patriarchal supremacy; the internalised trauma of the negation of self, as she grapples with the pain of fully confronting her reality. Yet ‘negative’ is as complex a term as ‘void’, as the show explores. If you are familiar with any of Mele Broome’s previous dance performances such as Grin, you will know to expect a highly conceptual piece. The Character and Concept Consultants are Ashanti Harris, an artist, dancer and activist who is one of the co-founders of Project X Dance Company along with Mele Broomes and Rhea Lewis. V/DA itself is made up of Broomes, Claricia Kruithof and Sabrina Henry. Adura Onashile is a playwright and performer known for Expensive Shit and HeLa, the story of Henrietta Lacks. The innovative MHz scenography is integral to the show, produced by Megahertz duo Bex Anson and Dav Bernard. The dramaturg is Lou Cope and the overall producers that form Feral are Jill Smith, Kathryn Boyle and Conner Milliken.

With a team like this, multilayered complexity is a given. In the production, the experience of marginalisation is pushed to the extreme, and we are pulled along for the ride. Broomes explores the possibility of agency in the placing of oneself fully outside that system of oppression, depending on how you use the experience of being on the empty, neglected hinterland. The first thing is to find a spark of life within, and test the environment without, expressed in tentative, incredibly controlled finger movements after the initial car crash. We’re already invested in her finding her lifeline, and we feel her urgency as she attempts to get attention from passersby. We recognise the futility of imploring those who cannot see you for help. The piece has also been influenced by text The Undercommons: Fugitive Planning and Black Study’ by Stefano Harney and Fred Moten which sees the potential for revolution in inhabiting the despised chaos that forms the shadow of the values of the Enlightenment. Placing oneself necessarily outside the system to allow for physical and psychological survival, including the space for independent thought, has a long tradition in maronnage in slave societies in the Americas and also the strength of commonality that comes from each other in those communities. What happens in a post industrial society where our lives are marginalised and also atomised? It takes determination to move yourself away from that mental space where reason and logic continue their own mental colonialism. A conversation is impossible with those who are indoctrinated into the superiority of their system. As Bob Marley sang, no one but ourselves can free our minds.

In this reimagining, Angela remains an architect.  As she is forced to the margins of a decaying environment, this allows the clarity to imagine and reconstruct a better future. Not just the physical environment, but the inner landscape of oneself. As Angela violently fights and struggles within the darkness of a black dustbin bag, she is able to metamorphosize within her chrysalis. Demolishing the inner architecture of colonialism must precede the process of reconstruction. The deliberate unravelling of the ‘false self’ Fanonian mask of white femininity symbolised in her heels, impotently hanging from the wire fence, allows for the rekindling of real strength and power. As her high heels come off, Angela must reground herself by reclaiming her identity on her own terms. To the sound of the steady beat that has come down through the generations, Angela draws strength from Black women’s historical struggles for freedom in order to reclaim her present identity on her own terms. The architect of her future takes the scraps of her false costume to create a head wrap before our eyes with an air of self-determination and defiance. By self-regulating the presentation of herself, the headwrap becomes a potent symbol of the internal reclamation of power. How deceptively fertile the void can be.

Broomes will play with the audience in breathtaking physical contortions, such as moving into a headstand into a scorpion pose. While she does this, she disconcertingly manages to look at the audience in an intense stare that somehow bizarrely dares the audience to reflect on their own reactions at observing the working out of her own trauma. Physically, Broome’s strength and control are mind-blowing. Her long braids are pulled, jerking her head to and fro as if her strands of hair are antennae trying to make sense of fleeting, intense vibrations in the environment. The density of the movements conveys the resistance inherent in moving to incoherent and impossible demands of the exterior. The feeling of immersion in a harsh industrial landscape and the chaotic energy we feel from the erratic choreography would not work without the industrial soundscape. Urban sounds are sampled, and the movements against the fence create the disturbing soundtrack and industrial noise pollution which helps to keep us all on edge like in the townscapes we inhabit in our everyday lives.

Thought-provoking is an overused, almost throw-away phrase, but this dazzling performance triggered a tsunami of thoughts. As our society is based on a philosophical culture of white male rationality necessarily detached from body and feeling, then non-verbal communication through such a powerful dance performance is the perfect way to step outside these all-encompassing modes of thinking and seeing. It strikes at the heart of the most cherished and celebrated foundations of our unbalanced society, which is what ironically makes VOID’s true effect beyond words.

Lisa Williams

five-stars

Goodbye… I’m Leaving

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The Caves
Aug 21-22, 26 (23.59)


As I watched the two members of La Barca dei Soli perform their clown routines, I found my spirit soar along its past lives to medieval towns, to a provincial child staring wide-eyed with glee at a pair of touring Provençal street entertainers. La Barca have hit the seam, the tradition is with them, they are Jedis of the clowning art. Their Yoda is, unsurprisingly, Philippe Gaulier, & to see La Barca perform is to witness the genius of Monsieur Gaulier, whose fussy eye has helped in the development of the show.

Goodbye…I’m Leaving is the ultimate comedic skit on the Don Quixote/Sancho Panza archetypes, stuffed full of myriad ingredients which have infused themselves into the Clowning tradition. Our two performers are the wiry, classically exuberant Claudio Del Toro (Italy) and eye-brimming Armando Gonzalez (Mexico), the former a Basil Fawlty, the latter ‘Papa Guinea;’ a naughty, precocious, mischeivous child in a grown man’s body.

Their show consists of an expositive exploration of the nuances & combinations surrounding a single piece of dialogue/performance; & as we follow this impressive education in clowning, the amusement levels go through the roof. Repetition can be hilarious, especially in the hands of such consummate mastery, when laughter feels like obedience, but absolutely delighted to be thus compelled. The show is on at an awkward hour – midnight – but  if you are anywhere near the Caves at that time, I beg you to see this show before it leaves Edinburgh. Trust me, La Barca could keep making up variations on their show until the candle burns down, & then keep doing it in the dark, & we’d still be laughing.

Damo

five-stars

UniverSoul Circus: Hip Hop Under the Big Top

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Underbelly Circus Hub
August 12-25 (17:00)


UniverSoul Circus is American’s largest circus, now in its 25th year of operation. But it’s more than just an American act, and it’s much more than hip hop. It’s more than just a circus too, with energetic music, dazzling theatrics, dance, comedy and mind-blowing spectacle. The show was dreamed up by top US promoter Cedric Walker, who wanted to use his music promotion background to create a lively, interactive family show that celebrated urban African American communities. UniverSoul Circus has been seen by 20 million people, features performers from right across the globe and is making its European premiere right here at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Ringmaster Lucky Malatsi from South Africa warmed up the audience immediately; humorously pitting the sides of the ring against each other to follow along with his whistles and claps. A beautiful ballerina princess emerged in a sparkling tutu, as if out of a child’s dream. Fresh the Clownsss, a quartet from Detroit with equal doses of silliness and swag, burst on the stage. An instant hit with the kids, there are truly the fresh face of clowning. These hip-hopping clowns with slick choreography and contemporary fashions took the internet by storm with their viral dance video to ‘Juju on the Beat’ back in 2016. Stillness descended once more as we were treated to dance duet Duo Amour from Cuba, to tell of a love story through an elegant, touching and mesmerising dance both on the ground and high up in the air. We shouldn’t be surprised. Cuba consistently nurtures some of the most skilled and refined dancers in the world.

Caribbean Dynasty blew us away in my favourite part of the show, proudly sporting their home country flags of Trinidad and Tobago. In a blast of the best, performers on huge stilts, known in the Caribbean as ‘Moko Jumbies’, towered above us as they danced to the fast beats of soca music. They gave us a spectacular performance; entertaining the crowd while retaining the power and meaning of authentic Caribbean culture.  Then they blended traditional characters from Carnival masquerade into an old-school limbo performance and hyped it to the max. How hot, low and dangerous can you go? By the time the four young contortionists came out to a remix of Man’s Not Hot, it was almost too much to witness in one sitting. The ‘Bone Breakers’ hail from Conakry in Guinea in West Africa and can bend and twist their bodies in eye-watering ways. They then casually get up and saunter off with a smile, as if it’s something we can all do every day.

Two acrobatic groups have you biting your nails on the edge of your seat. We were asked to stay silent to aid the concentration needed for more and more dangerous and skilful acts by The Willie Family High Wire, a six-person troupe from Colombia, South America. Knowing what balance it takes just to walk along a thin wire, to see them perform unbelievable acrobatic stunts at 18 feet up in the air really is breathtaking. An equally impressive Mongolian troupe in leather outfits and boots also know how to take it to the top. Expect much tumbling from a giant teeterboard and climbing higher and higher in a dazzling display of trust and teamwork.

There’s an unbelievable bundle of fun packed into this show for adults and children of all ages. In between sets, the clowns had the kids smiling, lip synching along, leaping up into an impromptu ‘flossing’ dance off, and bouncing giant balls around, so there wasn’t a single moment to get bored. I left that tent stunned, in awe, and full of joy. As the kids say, it literally gave me life. I feel genuinely honoured to have had the opportunity to catch this show in the UK, and I can’t stop raving about it to everyone I know. We’ve been blessed with UniverSoul Circus’ European premiere. Every seat at every performance should be filled. You’d be stupid not to go. Beg, borrow and steal if you have to. Have I convinced you yet?

Lisa Williams

five-stars

Dietrich: Natural Duty

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The Pleasance Courtyard

August 14-27 (15.30)


My good friend Louise had come over from Glasgow, to stop at mine and take in some shows. Its the first week of the Fringe and lots of two for one seats are available. Louise invited me to accompany her for this spellbinding performance of Dietrich: Natural Duty. The Pleasance was buzzing on this very pleasant August Tuesday. Everyone was chatty. We were a little early. So after we had picked up our tickets we sat under a tree on baby chairs while Louise did some Transcendental Meditation. While I Aume’d quietly to my self.

After about fifteen mins our performance was called. We took our seats in the lovely theatre. Hmm I thought. This is a very pleasant way to spend the afternoon. The lights went down and the performance had begun. I hadn’t put much thought into what we were going to be seeing. The intention was to enjoy and not capture, What followed was too captivating to not write about. Because it had me from the start.

The most beautiful of she males performed this one (Wo) Man show. Peter Groom embodied Marie Magdelene “Marlene Dietrich with a magical history lesson in vintage film history. Peter brought Ms Dietrich to life to reveal just how important and Brave this actress had been, during the outbreak of World War Two. Our heroine had to choose between the love of her country and what she knew was right. Renouncing her German Citizenship. Dietrich joined the American Army and fought against her homeland in order to free her people from Hitler. Becoming a famous actor and singer in the process.

Peter Groom sang the songs of Dietrich beautifully, performing his role perfectly. and his audience, we were in the palm of his hand from the moment the lights went down and Marlene Dietrich was brought to life.

A Fantastic Work Of Art.
Perfect Afternoon Viewing.
It Is Awesome.

Mark ‘Divine’ Calvert

five-stars

Tabarnak: Cirque Alfonse

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Underbelly’s Circus Hub on the Meadows

Aug 14-19, 21-25 (19.00)


My Canadian friends inform me that “Tabarnak” is a pretty strong cuss word in Quebecois’ French; what you exclaim when you see something outrageously fantastic. Well, Tabarnak to that! Circus Alfonse return to the Fringe after 2015’s outstanding “Barbu”, with a new show that wows the audience to their feet in applause at their sexy, boisterous, electro-trad inflected acrobatics. Just as muscular and edgy as usual, these guys and girls have a swagger about them that belies their sheer skill.

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When the lights went up the audience could have been forgiven for thinking that the performers were late, or hadn’t even shown up. The stage was littered with artefacts of one of the great religions of French speaking Canada – ice hockey. A song started by one of the figures on stage picked up by one after another unfolds into a rollerskating acrobatic routine. It’s impressive stuff but these guys are just warming up.

By way of a short musical number (and the live band gives a mesmerising accompaniment throughout), the show shifts to a mood that will be familiar to anyone who has seen Cirque Alfonse – a left-field, cultic vibe. Under a peculiarly profane stained-glass backdrop, bell-ringing campanologists, in their underpants, begin spinning into the high top tent on the end of bell-ropes. It’s like Peter Pan and the Lost Boys meets Punk Rock.

The performers complement each other well, with each having a different style, be it powerful and explosive or light and acrobatic. The overall result is a demonstration of absolute trust and perfect timing. The effect on the audience is mesmerising. What makes this troupe stand apart from other cirque acts is their smell-of-the-wild homespun presentation. There’s an anarchic feel to their show that mixes ice-hockey, religion, an industrial vibe and, at one point, a home-knitted take on Sufi Whirling Dervishes. The show ended with a powerful routine on a chain swing that brought the audience cheering to a standing ovation. Superb music, awesome stunts and great presentation left the audience howling for more.

Mark Mackenzie

five-stars

Aletia Upstairs: A Queer Love Of Dix

by Alex Coley


The Planet Bar

13th, 14th & 19th (18.00)


Aletia has spent a lot of time with The Grand Master Demarco, who is a local hero in Edinburgh and further afield, to gain the inspiration for her performance art. Heralding from Cape Town in South Africa, now residing in London, Aletia is about to complete her PHD entitled ‘An Imaginative Exploration and Performative Manifestation of the Richard Demarco archive. As inspiring muses go, only greatness could be drawn from spending time with Richard Demarco (CBE), whose European Art Foundation is based at Summerhall in Edinburgh, which is where this performance should have taken place, Indeed both my editor of the Mumble and myself had thought that Summerhall was where this performance was being presented. I arrived there on Saturday after my pretend Telly interview on Middle Meadow Walk, went into the press office and asked for my review tickets for Aletia Upstairs. Only to be met with blank faces. It was one of them moments. OMG, I’m in the wrong place with 10mins to performance time. Its an easy mistake to have made. We phoned Aletia and apologized and rearranged our date for the following night’s performance.

The Performance.
It’s a catchy one for the Fringe. Set in the world of expressionist painter Otto Dix, Julia Berber – Anita Berber’s fictional sister – sings Weimar cabaret songs and relates the Weimar period to contemporary events.

If you want to hear good singing and wonderful music, find out how the Weimar Republic relates to our world today and sing along – in a German accent – to some classic cabaret songs, come see it!
Read the full interview

FullVintageAlex CowleyThis was the time in Germany after the Kaiser had fled and The First World War had ended, and for a short period of time, sexual freedom and Socialism became the Arts’ best friend. Indeed my experience of last weeks Deitrich performance in The Pleasance Courtyard had ignited my wonder for this inspiring period in history, because so much great art and cultural inspiration had been drawn from the epoch. With this in my mind and with Aletia’s glowing credentials, I was giddy with the expectation of witnessing something very special. I was not disappointed, Aletia’s Queer Love Of Dix was performed to a backdrop of the paintings Otto Dix had painted through the Weimar period. Bringing to life Julie Beiber & taking us back to 1930’s Germany, Aletia showed us life through the eyes of a performance artist at that important time in world history. Combining a well-crafted script and beautifully sung songs drawn from the period to perfection, we were shown our age’s relation to those halycon Weimar times; reflected by present-day Tory austerity and the rise of The Third Reich.

A Queer Love Of Dix really has the potential to be massive, well indeed it is the work that will make this beautiful lady a Professor in the world of performance art.

The Venue.
The Planet Bar is as camp as they come, a small watering hole in Edinburgh’s Pink Triangle. The performance stage was right next to the Gents toilets, with a big heavy door that gave a really big bang every time the door closed. The walkway to the toilet was right through the performance space and non of the men going for a pee gave any respect for this performance of mastery that was taking place. This was frustrating me as much as it was Aletia. Rising above the struggle and against the downfalls of such a poor venue choice, an evolving masterful work was presented. After the performance, Aletia told me that Saturday’s gig was much worse. It made me wonder if her venue location manager had been sacked yet. With a work of such outstanding quality, one can only see this as a work in progress. A dress rehearsal for the greatness that will come. A Queer Love Of Dix is a quality piece of theatre and performance art that given the right venue and the right stage, will shine its magic to perfection.Great things will come.

Mark ‘Divine’Calvert

five-stars

Venue = 1 star