Piff, the magic dragon, is piffed off. No wife or girlfriend, just the taciturn Amy Sunshine as his recalcitrant assistant and Mr Piffles, the chihuahua, for a soul mate. So he finds solace in magic in a bewildering and bewitching hour of sleight of hand and stunning illusion.
Piff looks and sounds piffed off. Saddened by the absence of a lady-love in his life and distinctly disenchanted with his assistant, the gum chewing, indifferent Amy Sunshine (here on community service, and looks like it too), his sole mate is the engaging Mr Piffles, a chihuahua dressed, like Piff, in full dragon regalia.
So how does Piff go about pulling? Simple : pick out a charming young female member of the audience, entice her onto the stage with the promise of a small bar of chocolate (that seemed to appear from nowhere) and then subject her to the four essential tests that would mark her out as a princess and therefore the girl of his dreams. And impress her with a few tricks along the way.
Dry, laconic and genuinely funny, Piff is an extremely talented magician, particularly when it comes to weaving wonders with a pack of cards. His sleight of hand is also such that he can apparently make things appear and disappear at will, including the diminutive canine star of the show. And Piff’s hangdog expression and clever asides ensure that he’s always got the audience where he wants them – hanging onto his every word and therefore suitably distracted at the crucial moment when he needs to deliver an illusion.
So we have Mr Piffles disappearing into a laminating machine and emerging somewhat flatter than before, being delaminated back into life and then used to find cards carefully hidden in places that only a chihuahua would know to look. Cards chosen at random by audience members mysteriously reappear at the top of packs shuffled with bewitching speed. The magic gets steadily more impressive as the show builds towards an exciting conclusion involving a large cannon, a loud bang or two and the launching into thin air of the small four legged creature.
But just as impressive is Piff’s reaction to the things that appear to go wrong during this entertaining hour or so. Working with animals and audience is always going to involve an element of surprise and he handles each unexpected interlude with the same dry wit that characterizes the scripted parts of his act. But such is his professionalism and control, one wouldn’t put it past him to have worked these “mistakes” into his act as part of what was a whizzbang hour of comedy and magic.
And all the time, Piff continues to woo the potential mate he’s selected from the audience. The denouement arrives – will she accept his proposal? Or is she more interested in the free T-shirt on offer for her services to stage and screen?
Well, sad to say that Piff is still looking for love so, if you want to make a dragon happy as well as be thoroughly entertained, pop along to the Pleasance Dome sometime soon. Genuinely funny magicians are few and far between, like dragons.
Reviewed by Tim Wilcock 6 August 2012
Piff the Magic Dragon