First published in The Times, Wednesday August 31 2016
Be warned: there is a lot of padding in this show and we’re not just talking about the stuffing in our hosts’ underwear. The tacky love child of Paul Daniels and Magic Mike opens with the two buff Aussies launching a giant inflatable phallus into the front row and asking that we bounce it around the auditorium until the music stops and the first audience participant is chosen.
There follows a pause several minutes in length while we wait for the entertainers to finish exchanging saucy one-liners. The first “ta-da” moment eventually arrives at the climax of a fairly basic mind-reading trick – the like of which most amateur magicians would have nailed while still in primary school.
And yet, for all its lack of any real wow factor, the Naked Magicians’ blend of illusions, innuendo-driven banter and slow striptease might not have fallen quite so flat during their recent run at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe had they thought a little more carefully about their target audience.
Whittled down to a tight ten minutes, Christopher Wayne and Mike Tyler’s act might make for diverting hen night entertainment or an amusing late segment at a variety night. At half past ten on a Wednesday evening in the Pleasance Courtyard, most Fringe-goers aren’t quite drunk or desperate enough to go bananas for blow-up sex dolls and manscaped body hair.
On the night in question one woman was reluctantly browbeaten into getting up onstage only to sit in stiff, unsmiling silence as the magicians danced and twerked around her, peeling off layers of clothing. “My husband is in the second row,” she whimpered as she rose to stumble back to her seat.
If the inclusion of some pretty familiar rope and card tricks and disappearing acts proved anticlimactic, though, there was something a little tragic about the moment our hosts finally delivered the promised Full Monty to a restrained smattering of applause.