At this time of year I long to be in Edinburgh, if I am not there, and so I was grateful for this BBC afternoon live streaming of Sleight & Hand, one of the shows from the fringe. We are promised a “whip smart slice of Victoriana” and that is pretty much what we get. It is a tale of two magicians, Sleight and Hand and two splendidly Victorian characters, the detective Gaslight Jackson and the master criminal Lady Electra. We meet plenty of other characters along the way, all played, alongside their main roles as Edwin Sleight and Iphigenia Hand, with great speed and energy by Sam Collings and Natalie Wallace. The story hustles along with perhaps more style than substance but there is a lot of pleasure to be gained from watching how cleverly it is told. It is not easy to maintain clarity at this kind of pace and with so many characters. Both performances are strongly defined, allowing us to see a character quickly when we need to. Sometimes it is perhaps a little too frantic, I would have welcomed a moment of gothic silence and chilly atmosphere now and again, but it is clever and funny and charming so I’ll settle for that. It’s the kind of show where a director really can earn their keep and Marieke Audsley has certainly done that here. That clarity which I mentioned comes from the performances but it also comes from the eye of a director who is able to look in from the outside and see what what works. Sometimes a split second in the timing or a slight change of position on stage can make all the difference and this was a really accurate, well rehearsed piece- as it had to be.
This is typical Edinburgh fare, an entertaining way to pass an hour or so as part of a busy day on the fringe and it delivers exactly what it intends to.