There's an air of cheerful chaos to the start of this comedy magic show; and as the young crowd take their seats, there's palpable anticipation, too. A filmic score plays in the background, replete with promise of adventure, while Victorian-styled conjuring duo Morgan & West chatter away on stage – greeting their audience with the big-hearted warmth that's made them an Edinburgh favourite for the last five years. While their act has always been family-friendly, this is the first time they've pitched a show specifically at kids, and it's clear within the first few moments that they have another success up their frock-coat sleeves.
But this show's about much more than just the magic. Morgan & West are a comically mismatched duo, and the interplay between them provides much of the charm, as well as the majority of the humour. The pint-sized Rob West makes a cartoonishly misanthropic bad guy; a nicely-judged character, he's reprehensible without being dislikeable, a man who can't be bothered with chipper patter or social niceties like remembering his volunteers' names. He's the perfect foil for the affable, larger-than-life Rhys Morgan – and needless to say, it's the loveable Morgan who always ends up getting the upper hand.
A simple but clever opening trick brings the young audience quickly on side, as Morgan casually foils West's attempts to ruin a mind-bending teleport routine. Later stunts include a deliciously daft interpretation of the notorious bullet catch, and an impossible-seeming twist on the theme of balloon animals (one of many moments which had the kids seated around me visibly entranced). On the day I attended, West drew pantomime boos for one particularly sneaky segment – in which, by exploiting a series of linguistic technicalities, he essentially gets out of performing a magic trick at all.
But, while that gambit was perfectly-pitched to trigger comedy outrage from the crowd, it does also highlight the one criticism I'd make of this show. The magic itself is relatively sparse, and occasionally de-emphasised to the point that it's almost incidental. If you're a fan of the intricately-worked retro-themed illusions the duo have produced in previous years, then be warned it's a very different proposition this time around – with the emphasis now firmly on the pair's (admittedly rewarding) character comedy.
But still, the duo's now-fractious relationship lends a new dimension to some familiar routines – most notably the shell game, where West's frustration at Morgan's meddling builds to a funny and genuinely unexpected conclusion. The deadpan hopelessness of West's patter proves a recurring highlight, and the closing trick is an inspired one: repeating over and over and growing sillier and sillier each time, it also sees Morgan exact a satisfyingly childish revenge on his pompous conjuring companion.
It went down a storm with the children, and it brought an impish grin to the face of this time-worn reviewer as well. All in all, this is yet another triumph for this most reliable of Fringe double acts; charming, funny and occasionally bamboozling, it should tick a box for anyone who still has the spirit of childhood in their hearts.