The first time Brighton Journal encountered magician Danny Lee Grew was by chance as he was attempting to perform his ‘Miraculous Magic’ show in Royal Pavilion Gardens over the bank holiday weekend. The (by that point) flustered sorceror was having a difficult time of it. Children wandered back and forth across the makeshift stage at random or deserted at critical points during his tricks. Others refused to leave once their spot was over. Ultimately the frustrated warlock was pursued from the stage by a sticky-handed mob. Aleister Crowley it wasn’t.
It was therefore with some anticipation that Brighton Journal caught up with the latter-day Merlin in laboratory conditions, by attending one of his shows at The Purple Playhouse on Montefiore Road. It transpires that Danny Lee Grew is actually a pretty serious magician. He is a member of The Magic Circle, and holds a number of awards from that arcane and mysterious body. When not at The Fringe he performs serious trickery for big crowds and some pretty serious people, by all accounts always accompanied by his trademark enthusiasm and witty repartee.
While the serious magician did shine through in places, ‘Miraculous Magic’ is very much a kid’s show, with the tricks taking a backseat to dances, jokes and audience participation. It is the latter part that really enthused the children, who laughed, shouted and heckled The Clacton Conjuror throughout. The content of the show was well judged, as while some of the more complicated tricks might have resonated with the adults in the audience, they were clearly lost on younger audience members. The kids’ attention was instead held by seeing other children onstage, humour on their own level – and by seeing a grown man dance like a chicken.
After opening his own curtains (he once performed to 5,000 people at The Olympic Stadium, so that must sting a little) the enthusiastic enchanter commenced with some sleight of hand tricks, producing and vanishing handkerchiefs at will. This certainly amused the young crowd, particularly after he was forced to roll up his sleeves by intense juvenile barracking. The handerkerchief tricks were immediately followed by some audience participation, with children putting cloths into a bag which then failed to change colour. This caused consternation and mirth amongst the youngsters in equal measure as the neophyte nigromancer appeared to perpetrate a very obvious fraud, before going onto his big reveal in – a continuing theme of his show – a successful send-up of his own profession.
A complicated card trick which followed appeared to pass younger members of the audience by, particularly as the magus had forgotten a crucial earlier stage of his ungodly ritual. However the day was salvaged by a wand which fell to pieces whenever it was touched by a child, and a lot of business involving the conjuration of bananas. One long set piece, with four children onstage, which involved a great deal of belching, a botched marriage and serial refusals to kiss, was lost as a trick but was in any case a big hit with the kids who enjoyed the jokes and funny incidents.
Between tricks the magician repeatedly engaged in funny dances for obscure reasons involving a trick sandwich. He also made the same mistake as Professor Elemental and other Brighton performers in relying on a member of the Brighton Journal writing team for audience participation – which inevitably resulted in a hard time and some tricky answers. Performers of Brighton, rely on us at your peril! I won an empty envelope. As bribes go, what can I say? Must do better …
As time wore on, on a hot day and in a stuffy room, some tricks and jokes fell a little flat. I think only I laughed at one joke in which Danny Lee Grew attempted to chat up an orange. However I am the reviewer – no doubt due to a certain somebody’s devilish powers – and therefore it was all very funny. In any case, moments in which the audience’s attention wandered were brief as the conjuror’s good humour and cleverly-timed show ensured that slower-paced parts of the act were imediately followed by a dance or some business involving children from the crowd, which immediately regained attention.
Finally it was time for the show to end, and the enchanter revealed his magical heritage by first apparently botching and then brilliantly performing an illusion by the great Tommy Cooper. This proved a classy way to end ‘Miraculous Magic’, reminding the audience that Danny Lee Grew could have staged a genuine magic show if he was so inclined.
As is traditional when reviewing kid’s shows, Brighton Journal sought the opinion of a young member of the audience to review the show. In this instance the reviewer was Sebastian (aged 7). Sebastian has autism and has previously never expressed a strong opinion on anything at all. “Sebastian, did you like the magic show?” “Sebastian loved it”.
Considering the general enthusiasm shown by all of the children at the show, ‘Miraculous Magic’ clearly hits the spot perfectly for the younger generation. Let’s hope that Danny Lee Grew returns to next year’s Fringe with something for the adults. It would be good to see a show with the emphasis on his magical skills, and would be fun to hear how he adapts his humour to a more senior crowd.
Brighton Journal caught up with ‘Miraculous Magic’ on 13th May at The Purple Playhouse.