Theatrical magic: how one University academic is aiming to enchant crowds at Edinburgh Fringe this summer

A drama lecturer at the University of Sussex will be stepping away from the lecture theatre to confuse and delight audiences in equal measure this summer, with a new magic performance at the Edinburgh Fringe.

Dr Augusto Corrieri, a Lecturer in Drama, Theatre & Performance at the University, will be going by his magical pseudonym Vincent Gambini to stage The Chore of Enchantment, a show combining magic performance with a deadpan ironic stance and elaborate theatrical narratives.

Vincent Gambini is a magician and sleight-of-hand theatre artist, the winner of International magic championships in the past who, after becoming disillusioned by global news events, is suffering from ‘magician’s block’.

Combining deadpan reflections with jaw-dropping sleight-of-hand, Gambini unveils the hidden difficulties of being a conjurer with a kind of ‘meta-magic’, expertly playing with the audience’s understanding of deception, artifice and theatrical make-believe.

The show will take place daily at 5.45pm, between 1-27 August at Underbelly Edinburgh on Bristo Square.

Talking about his inspiration behind the show, Dr Corrieri said: “Magic was my teen passion, the thing I practised every day for five years.

“Nowadays, having studied and worked a lot in the field of contemporary theatre and performance, what I do is combine magic with postmodern approaches to theatre. This seems to bring different kinds of audiences and expectations together.”

His first work combining theatre and magic, This is not a Magic Show, was critically acclaimed in Edinburgh in 2015, with the Guardian calling it “thoughtful, playful and multi-layered”. He went on to present the piece in theatres across the UK and Germany, as well as art galleries and festivals.

Despite his day job, magic has yet to feature in Dr Corrieri’s lectures: “It’s far too specialised, geeky, and particular!” he explains.

However, there are moments where it does crop up. “In a first-year module called ‘Theatre & Performance Analysis’, we do read about magician Tommy Cooper’s famous stage death, in 1984, on live television. And occasionally the odd magic trick does happen, in tutorials or in the corridors.”

After the Edinburgh run, Dr Corrieri is bringing his work back to Sussex with In Place of a Show at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, a performance-lecture focusing on what happens inside theatres when nothing is happening there. He also hopes to bring his Vincent Gambini show to the ACCA in 2019.

The Chore of Enchantment is co-presented by Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts and produced by Sally Rose. Its development was funded by Arts Council England, with support from the University of Sussex.

The show was also developed through residencies at Cambridge Junction, Shoreditch Town Hall and ARC Stockton Arts Centre.

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