• By: Keith Whittier

Fringe Review: Hotter Than Potter

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Photo courtesy of the Ottawa Fringe Festival

When reviewing a magic show the reviewer has to be a bit of a magician themselves. How do write about what you’ve just seen without revealing too much of the act. Will a person really want to head out to a performance when they’ve just been informed that the climax of the evening was David Copperfield making the Statue of Liberty vanish before everyone’s widening eyes? Probably not. So, you just got to hope that the magic maker has a bit more up their sleeve then a deck of cards, long silk scarf and a furry, long-eared friend.

In that department, Keith Brown does not disappoint with his boldly titled Fringe show Hotter Than Potter at  La Nouvelle Scène. I’ll leave the looks department to be debated upon by Daniel Radcliffe fanatics but Brown’s fine tailored suit over the wizard robes at Hogwarts certainly had him a step above in clothing department at least.

Like his shows namesake, Brown also hails from London. Okay, it’s London, Ontario but the world class speaker and entertainer at least doesn’t seem to be latched into the woes of Harry’s whinier teen turbulence as the moment he steps onstage you are drawn to the well coifed magicians warm smile. Slight of mouth? Maybe, but you are already entering the show with a bit of intrigue. Brown ensured that even while you were standing in line.

Why were you asked for your email address before the show? Why were you told not to check whatever may land there within the next hour? What’s in the briefcase on the stool stage-side?

“I want to make the ordinary extraordinary,” Brown says beginning his show by doing just that, carefully reciting his ABC’s like a kindergartner and then amping up the octane by doing it in a rapid-fire succession and then backwards.

And then comes that charm: “Annnnnd that’s why I’m single.”

Brown tells his audience how magic opens the door to a creative number of infinite possibilities and while his illusions do dazzle and amaze it’s the connection he makes to the crowd that is the real trick. This is not a show where you sit back astonished while trying to puzzle out what you are seeing. You are involved, one way or the other, in a performance that places you at the centre of the act. Sure, you came for the magic but you probably didn’t expect to be part of it.

For example, take when Brown gathers up a random selection of the audience informing them that he has “made a career of deciphering people” and he always knows when they are lying. What follows is not just a feat of clever mind reading but also some comical banter with the participants.

“How do you do it?” explained one of astounded participants going on to answer his own question. “Well, I guess that’s magic.”

“Actually,” replied Brown with his cheeky smile, “it’s a lot of time spent alone.”

While Hotter Than Potter does contain some of your usual magic show fare –card tricks, vanishing and reappearing items, etc.–  it’s Brown’s personality that draws you in deeper. I'm sure that's all part of the distraction but it's also part of the fun. The show doesn’t have the flash, fire and budget of something you’d catch daily on the Vegas strip but it doesn’t need that (especially when he’s giving out beer!).

In short, come for the magic but stay for the humour, a witty lesson in numerology and cake!

Remaining Showtimes:
SUNDAY, JUNE 18 @ 7:00 PM