He didn’t fool Penn & Teller, but the hipster reptile’s crowd-pleasing appearance has bagged him over 11 million YouTube views and a global reputation. There’s even a Piff copycat, a Ukranian pretender named Andriy Chekanyuk who filched John Van Der Put’s (a pseudonym Piff adopts to avoid bother at passport control) routine wholesale. Piff has long been a master of the ten minute set. His world-weary attitude and princess chasing antics make an instant impact, and the sight of him whipping out his Tacular (you heard) will never get old.
There’s always been something of a problem with his full shows, however, which have displayed a tendency to repeat material and been stronger in the jokes than the magic department. They’ve never been bad, just never that memorable either. Well, no longer. The Piff the Magic Dragon Show is not only the strongest show Piff has ever put together, it’s one of the best comedy magic shows you’ll see all year.
The setup is similar to previous outings, particular last year’s Jurassic Bark, with plenty of smaller gimmicks to season the larger illusions, and some masterful audience management. There’s plenty of Mr Piffles to enjoy, and a centre-piece game of Dog or No Dog that’ll strike terror into the hearts of the sleepy Chihuahua’s army of admirers. A framing playing card tombola is the trigger for several impressive routines, giving the show a loose, pliable structure that never goes stale or holds things up. There’s also a bit with a mind-reading goldfish that’s a perfect blend of Piff’s fairground-mordant humour.
Not all of the magic is first class, but every trick is entertaining, and the twist Piff puts on some old standards mean that even a lo-fi sword box routine feels fresh and engaging. Piff’s also a generous sort of dragon, and when one trick goes awry (not his fault) he is able to rapidly move on, without pausing or balking for a second.
Piff has also wisely increased the role of his long-suffering assistant, the po-faced Amy Sunshine. Her feet-dragging apathy is a smart updating of the magician’s glamorous assistant, and her contribution to the joy of the show is considerable.
It feels like Piff has really put the hours in on this one. Cleverly conceived, tightly performed and supremely confident, it’s the show that should send Piff soaring into the clouds. Stop dragon your feet and snap up a ticket.