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Brace of Spades: Magician Tom Brace brings acclaimed Edinburgh Fringe Festival show to Rhodes for half term

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A magician who grew up treading the boards in Bishop’s Stortford is bringing his latest acclaimed family show to Rhodes Arts Complex this half term to prove that modern magic has moved on from “rabbits in hats”.

Home-grown talent Tom Brace is an alumnus of Phoenix Theatre Arts who has been performing at Rhodes since childhood and appeared in its 2018 panto Beauty and the Beast as Merlin the wizard.

He earned glowing reviews for his new Brace of Spades stage show during a sold-out run at last summer’s Edinburgh Fringe Festival.

Magician Tom Brace (28831888)
Magician Tom Brace (28831888)

And now the former Leventhorpe sixth-former is bringing it to his adopted home-town on Friday February 21 in a lunchtime performance as part of a 30-date tour of the UK.

Featuring Tom’s own blend of magic and comedy, the show promises something for all ages. He told the Indie: “The thinking behind it is that parents and children should be able to enjoy the same magic without either feeling patronised. So, it’s not a wacky, zany kids show and it’s not all dark and mysterious for grown-ups either.”

Brace of Spades is the second show the 26-year-old has debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe, having first performed there in 2018. “This is the one that got all the reviews and stars and nice things,” he said.

Not bad for someone who only turned his hand to magic three years ago.

Having originally intended to try to make it as an actor after completing his degree in drama and theatre studies at the University of Kent, Tom was inspired to change tack after seeing a “really great” magician performing table tricks at an event he had attended.

“I started learning in 2017 and became completely addicted. Flash forward three years and here I am doing my own show," he said.

“Luckily, because I had so many links to the theatre world already, putting the show together was relatively straightforward. The complicated bit was learning all the magic.”

Alas, there is no Hogwarts-style school where budding magicians can go to learn their mystical craft, as not unsurprisingly a lot of people do ask, he said. Instead, Tom is a frequent visitor to London’s famous International Magic shop, where he goes to pick up tricks of the trade.

“You are essentially buying secrets, which sounds mad,” he said. “Basically, it’s about learning the principles of magic and then putting your own spin on them to make it your own.”

Tom, who grew up in Old Harlow, says he is influenced by entertainers like comedian/magician Pete Firman and Britain’s Got Talent finalist Ben Hart, who is also appearing at Rhodes in May.

“I’m a great fan of physical comedy too,” he added. “I love shows like Fawlty Towers and that sense of silliness.”

Described by one reviewer as “joyfully daft”, Tom hopes Brace of Spades will appeal to young and old alike.

“I think there’s this idea that magic is a bit old-fashioned and we all go about carrying rabbits around in a hat,” he said. “There's a certain nostalgia to it, but I want my magic shows to be as modern as possible and to bring magic into the 21st century. I hope that it inspires audiences, and especially children, that it isn’t just about top hats and canes.”

* Brace of Spades will be at Rhodes on Friday February 21 at 1pm. Tickets are £13.50 (concessions £11.50) or £46 for a family ticket. To book, visit www.rhodesartscomplex.co.uk or call 01279 710200.

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