Kirsty Harris Archive





A Menier Chocolate Factory Production

The Expert at the Card Table



@ George Street, Edinburgh Festival Fringe

5th-25th August

15:35 (1hour)





A review byKirsty Harris for EXTRA! EXTRA!


I am not usually a fan of card tricks. I think we have got to the stage where we always know what is going to happen; the trickster will always produce the right card in the end. We will always be left astounded, amazed, confused after the conjurer proves his prowess. “How did he do that? “ I also do not like the smugness if some tricksters as they consistently fool the audience, dancing around like a playful, teasing Puck. The Expert at the Card Table is one-man fringe act, performed by Guy Hollingworth , that weaves the story of the nineteenth century card sharp S W Erdnase with examples of his tricks. Set in a Victorian study, we are guests come to be amused by clever tricks.

The storytelling structure if this piece makes the impressive slight of hand very palatable. This is just part of the story and not a performer all too ready to show off. Hollingworth's easy manner and gentle charm make him endearing as a character and completely natural trickster. The simple anecdotal text could be richer in evoking a sense of time and place and a more dramatic delivery would keep the audience captivated more successfully but these are minor flaws.

The use of a aerial camera which feeds live footage of the card table in order to aid Hollingworth's explanation of how some of the tricks were done is distracting and seems out of place in the period setting. Another way of illustrating the answers would hold us in the Victorian bubble more secretly.

This show seems so natural, a gentle and amusing safe haven from all the edginess and boundary-pushing mayhem on the Fringe. Hollingworth never comes across as over rehearsed and the odd mistake only add to the charm of this piece.

The style stays a little too charming as the story moves into darker territory of S W Erdnase's downfall and psychological demons. Continuing along in the same tone, despite the shift of subject matter is undramatic and doesn’t take advantage if the potential these elements bring and the tricks?

Well, they are brilliant. Consistently clever and skilled. I have no idea how he does it, and I don’t really mind, I am just happy to be entertained and surprised. By the close of The Expert At The Card Table the slight of hand becomes almost a background the story or perhaps a highly skilfully constructed foundation on which to build the story. Or it could be the other way round. One would be much weaker without the other. After seeing this piece I have decided that storytelling is my favourite way of performing magic tricks, and good storytelling can have a magical effect all of its own.


Assembly Rooms, 54 George Street

Box Office - 0131 623 3030

Aug 3, 5-7, 12-14, 19-20, 25 15.35 (1hr) £11.00 (£10.00)
Aug 8-10, 15-17, 21-24 15.35 (1hr) £12.00 (£11.00)



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