And More... Reviews

BRINGING ME BACK TO ME - Matthew Drapper

Matthew Drapper came to Buxton as a student and the town has been a key part in his journey from a very unconventional, deeply constraining religious background to an acceptance of himself and his sexuality.

The evening was hosted by the popular and versatile Gordon McLellan and fell into two halves. Before the interval Matthew was in conversation with Susan Cross and this allowed him to tell his story, and what a story it is. Matthew was raised within a Christian family that became more extreme in their beliefs over the years. He was home-schooled within an environment which saw the world as a battleground between good and evil.

Coming to Buxton was pivotal because Matthew made friends who were neither religious nor obviously evil, though he still sought out a church to belong to alongside his nights dancing at Level Two. This led to a bigger church community in Sheffield which he describes as a cult, where he was initially welcomed with an apparent outpouring of love, but ended with Matthew being coerced into dangerous anti-LGBT Conversion Therapy. There was an eye-opening explanation of the role of demons within the group's theology.

The second half of the evening was part Q&A, part discussion and it was a privilege to listen to more of Matthew’s story and insights, as well as those of the audience. I was startled at the slowness of the response of the wider church to his complaints. Our world is not as progressive as one might hope.

Matthew is an engaging presence and can be very amusing about even the darkest of times, easing our emotional response without losing sight of the difficulty of his journey. He has written a book about his experiences, also called Bringing Me back to Me, and I look forward to reading more of his valuable story about his search for self-acceptance. At Buxton Fringe it is fair to say we are all about people expressing themselves. It was wonderful to have Matthew with us telling his story.

Stephen Walker


We’ve been deprived of the Buxton Pride Picnic for the last couple of years, so what a joy it was to see its return. The picnic is a lovely, warm, inclusive afternoon which draws in members of the LGBTQ+ community, their allies, and the wider community at large.

On the lawns of the Pavilion Gardens, watched over by a giant puppet and multiple rainbow flags, we were treated to a new Pride song, specially composed for the occasion, poetry, a raffle (I won a rainbow hat!), a cake-making competition and the Pride Puppy parade. Through all these activities, there was a spirit of togetherness that could only bring smiles.

It’s a testament to all who have built the Pride Picnic that, especially after the enforced absence of the last two years, it is now firmly established as a central part of the Buxton calendar. It’s an opportunity to join up with old friends and make new friends. Those there were encouraged to write down their thoughts on a label and tie it to a tree. One person’s thoughts summed up the event – that the event helped them to realise that they’re not alone. This was a message that brought people of all ages together and long may it continue to grow.

Robbie Carnegie


Who doesn't love a magic show? Especially one as skilful as this. Caspar Thomas slickly delivers trick after trick and I'm completely confounded as to how he did any of them!

This was a traditional magic show, the audience were very close to Caspar but despite this proximity we were none the wiser as to how any of his tricks worked.

Clearly a very accomplished magician, Caspar presents with a relaxed style and self-deprecating humour. I like that he involved his audience, it made for a very intimate show. Everybody, not just the younger customers, seemed delighted to be included and we all got to handle some of his props - rings, cards and, of course, the titular handkerchiefs. Tricks flowed fast and flawlessly, as did the patter.

The show lasted 45 minutes and was very well received by the audience. Great fun and so clever.

Janet Payne


As showmanship goes ‘The Great Baldini’ is way out front. Dressing the part with coat tails, bald head, neck scarf and a deep projecting voice he established an immediate presence and rapport that carried the rest of the show.

While we were expecting something political (“Illusionati ruling the world”) Baldini discarded this as too dark given the tragic issues currently going an around the world. Instead we were treated to an hour of, frankly, astonishing magic tricks.

Maybe, like me, you try to think through how the tricks could be done: trying to understand just how we are being tricked. After two of three of his ‘magic’ tricks - I gave up and just accepted the spectacle.

With much audience participation (by the end of the session almost everyone had been recruited to help) Baldini (or as he would prefer ‘The Great Baldini’) went from rings to card tricks to snooker balls - completely hands off he had an audience member identify five out of five correctly. Baffling.

A nice touch was his story of how his father entertained queues outside theatres with a simple ring trick earning pennies – being spotted by a scout who took him on tour where he learned enough to become a professional himself. These tricks were then handed down from father to son.

The climax was an escapology act. I was one of the recruits to secure chains and I was sure I tightened them to the point of pain. With lots of jokes, banter and showmanship (he even identified me as the reviewer) Baldini eventually emerged free.

Many amateur magicians might be able to analyse and suggest possible explanations of Baldini’s tricks but for those present we were fully absorbed, completely taken in, mesmerised and we gave him a standing ovation.

Further performances 14th , 15th, 16th and 17th July. Be sure to book as spaces are limited and word will spread.

Brian Kirman


A sell-out performance and deservedly so. The High Peak Magic Circle, out for their first big show for four years, made their Fringe debut with this literally marvellous event. Thoroughly professional in every way; Neil Fletcher’s organisation and calm stewardship of the evening; Andy Hall’s unflustered work as compere dealing with less than perfect acoustics; and of course…the brilliant magician/mentalist team.

The event was superbly organised so that everyone in the audience was seated at a table and received ten minute visits by the magicians in turn. Timing was immaculate, every performer working hard to ensure the slot was completed in the allotted time – well done guys (and gal!) – dealing with the time pressure as well as the close-up scrutiny of the act itself was no mean feat – but they pulled it off without exception and this undoubtedly contributed to the enjoyment of the evening. There was something for everyone – a bit of light leg-pulling, gags galore and banter and prizes for the kids – genuinely a safe family event.

And so to the magic. It’s hard to say how many times one asked oneself, “How did they do that?” How exactly do you get a signed £20 note into an unopened tin of pineapple chunks? The acts were truly remarkable and without exception the delivery was slick and confident, the accompanying chat unfailingly amusing and often laugh-out-loud and the entertainment factor set to max. Lots of sleight of hand card tricks; mystical things with ropes; the bending of coins and forks; large stones appearing in shoes; watches disappearing; rings reappearing - in a locked box alongside a mummified finger (ha ha, why not?); very clever things with a Rubik cube - toss two in the air and they come down solved…whaaat?

Not to forget the mentalism - brilliantly demonstrated by the only female member of the team, Kay Dyson. A remarkable act in which a random name was written on a card by a member of the audience, the card stored away unseen and then the interview with Kay carefully scrutinising the face of the audience member. The name is stated and the card revealed from its secure place - tense moment - but name correct. Mentalism, a trick – whatever - like all the acts, wonderous, captivating and thoroughly enjoyable. A great piece of theatre.

Jim Marriott


What on earth is a class on philosophy doing in a fringe festival of theatre, comedy and music?

Well, a full room of interested people were there to find out.

To summarise two thousand years evolution of philosophical thought in an hour would be impossible so Darren Harper presented a crisp exposition focusing on Stoicism. The audience (or support group?) slowly became engaged as the session progressed and having set the agenda people felt more free to question and challenge Darren’s statements. This produced a lively and stimulating interchange of views.

Darren gave a summary exposition of the history and development of Stoicism, referring to the proponents of the Socratic method leading to the Cardinal Virtues:





The result of all this being ‘happiness’. Which was then discussed – what do you mean by happiness? Or should it be 'wisdom'?

We then went on to consider the ‘dichotomy of choice’, and the idea of pre-meditating what can go wrong in the day ahead and being prepared as to how to deal with it. It all sounds heavy but seemed logical following previous discussion.

Of all the performances I have attended in this or other fringe shows none has provoked as much follow on discussion as this. I am sure Darren will take this as a high complement.

A further discussion (not show) on 18th July.

Brian Kirman