Originally from Skipton, Yorkshire and now based in Brighton, Paul Zenon presents a piece entirely suited to the tone of the Brighton Fringe. Played out in the atmospheric, subtly lit interior of the Brunswick, where the audience members sit sipping drinks at individual tables, Zenon tells the tale of Houdini’s right-hand man, Jim Collins, drawing parallels with his own first steps in the world of tricks and magic.
Influenced by the owner of Blackpool’s House of Secrets, Bill Thompson, who Zenon met as a youngster on his summer holidays and who became a lifelong friend, one of the highlights of the show is the way Zenon recalls the feelings and memories of a captivated boy being introduced to the magic and merriment of Blackpool in the 1970s. While the sections about Collins are entertaining and informative, it is Zenon’s personal story of how he started out learning the tricks of the trade that is where the real magic happens. There’s a warmth and charisma to Zenon’s storytelling that just can’t be faked. And his passion for the subject is strikingly genuine. Of course, he can’t help but include a few magic tricks in the proceedings and the linking rings of the title are a subtle reminder of what a convincing magician he is.
Although there is a smattering of comedy throughout the show, it also has a melancholy element, with Zenon reflecting on Blackpool’s golden era and his own place in it. As a tribute to Thompson, the show is heartfelt, gently entertaining and undeniably poignant.
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