FRINGE REVIEW – Devil in the Deck


By Jen McGregor

In a stifling room in the Pleasance Dome, Jack Swindle is waiting both to cheat you and to show you how to cheat. There is magic in the air from the moment he welcomes the audience into the room, courtesy of Paul Nathan’s charismatic performance and wonderfully atmospheric underscoring from guitar player John Anaya.

The show is a mixture of card tricks, cheats and stories about how lives have been shaped by the turn of a card, including Jack Swindle’s. Finding himself on the receiving end of a catastrophic tarot reading that prophecies his early death, Jack sets out to learn how to handle a deck of cards in the hope that he can change his fate. Along the way he learns how to cheat, and his career as a professional swindler takes him on adventures that sound just about crazy enough to be true.

The card tricks themselves are impressive in both scale and execution – this man doesn’t just ask someone to pick a card and then find it again in the deck, he asks more than a dozen people to do it at once. He demonstrates cheats under a video camera, every movement of his hands visible on a big screen, yet even as he narrates the cheat it’s impossible to spot. He tells us what signs to look out for to identify a professional cheat, yet it feels like it would be impossible to resist a game of Find the Lady with Jack Swindle.

The show is, perhaps, a little inconsequential, but it’s perfect for its time slot and the hour flies fast. It’s easy to imagine yourself in a smoky bar in the Deep South as Nathan’s accent and charm cast their spell, and almost impossible not to leave the venue determined to get your hands on a pack of cards and master the Ascanio Spread by the end of the Fringe. Cheating, swindling fun suitable for the whole family.

Devil in the Deck runs at Pleasance Dome until 25 August (not Mondays) at 16.10. Running time is one hour.

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