"Jim The Magician" – full name Jim Campbell – in many ways embodies all that's best about the Fringe. Back in 2012, I met him performing tricks in the street to queues of punters at the Pleasance Courtyard; last year he stepped up to his own hour-long show, and now he's back with a longer run, and a one-off gig back at the Pleasance (this time indoors). I'm delighted to report that he's risen to the occasion with an engaging, warming, and pleasantly perplexing hour of magic.
Many close-up magicians struggle with the transition to the stage, but Jim has built a routine which befits this larger scale. He starts well, with an attention-grabbing opening that sees something quite implausible happen to a balloon, and continues through a variety of humorous tricks involving playing cards, locked boxes and disappearing rings. It's much-loved, traditional stuff – more reminiscent of Paul Daniels than Derren Brown – and relies far more on physical skill than psychology or showmanship; if you're sharp-eyed you might once or twice spot the crucial sneaky move, but most of Jim's magic successfully bamboozled me.
He's surprisingly candid about where many magicians get their tricks (basically, they buy them), but while there are some familiar gimmicks mixed into Jim's act, he also has some nicely-worked routines of his own. One particular trick involving a Fringe programme is perhaps a little complicated, but earns my admiration for its on-topic theme and its unexpected conclusion. And his finale, which sees a member of the audience step into the limelight, succeeds on many levels; it's a witty deconstruction of Jim's own act, and I only have the haziest of ideas about how the magic was done.
Where Jim falls down, just slightly, is in his patter – his ability to take control of the room and drive forward with his routine. His modest-sounding name and mild-mannered persona make a refreshing change from the typical magician's bombast, but on occasion he carries those characteristics to a fault, seeming less in charge of the situation than he really is and really needs to be. He does know how to elicit the response he wants from his crowd, but a little more exuberance – and maybe even some vocal training – might help him command the size of room he's now performing in.
I'm also not sure about his gambit of chatting to his volunteers before proceeding with the trick; it's a homely and nostalgic device, but it's reminiscent of 1980's game shows and might be a little too old-fashioned for the fast-paced world of the Fringe. Overall though, Jim has put together an original, entertaining and skilful hour of magic, which delivers plenty of wonderment and quite a lot of laughter too. He's well worth seeing now – and the name "Jim", however inconspicuous it may seem, is surely one that's worth remembering for the future.
Main run ended. The Magic of Jim's extra show is at The Green, Pleasance Courtyard, 7pm Saturday 22 August. Info & tickets.