A staple of television magic shows, you know what you're going to get with Pete Firman. Tricks that astonish plus cheeky patter equals an accomplished entertainer. But isn't it legitimate to expect a bit more than this, at a Fringe where audiences are up for a challenge?
It feels churlish to not acknowledge the skills on display. Punters are fooled into making decisions that result in them not winning a prize; dexterity is evident in a routine with a Rubik's Cube; an extended sequence with an audience member's wedding ring rightly draws gasps from the crowd. Along the way Firman's gentle joshing of participants shows his experience in managing an audience, especially when he quickly realises one person doesn't want to be dragged onstage, and so moves on to another. In a Fringe full of audience participation that can humiliate or serve to display the performer's authority, Firman is instead keen for everyone to have a good time.
He repeatedly refers to what he does as "old school". And there's a charm in avoiding tricky pyrotechnics and being confident in what's on offer. But "old school" can slip into "familiar", and there's not much on display here that hasn't been seen before. A sequence involving constructing a narrative out of the faces of playing cards is amiably silly, but goes on too long. Firman sometimes chides the audience for not being impressed enough at the considerable labour he's making look so easy. A bit more daring might help.