The Croatian Magic Sensation drops neatly into a well-tested formula: those daft foreigners do daft things. Most recently, stupid Kazaks make for particularly stupid documentary makers, according to Sasha Baron Cohen. So, predicatably, the Croation Magic Sensation is less than sensational, packing an hour with some of the most loosely termed 'magic' at this year's Fringe. Of course, the intention is a humourous one, gross incompetency lending itself well to slapstic comedy, and the pair do manage to eke a few good laughs out of some marvellously bad tricks. A routine which sees Branko (the Brave), switching between different poses as a curtain is raised and lowered by his enthusiastic assistant, Branka, does a great job of satirising the histrionics expected from the likes of David Copperfield. But most of the conjuration is just bad, not spectacularly bad.
But it's the bizarre Croatian narrative which throws this one off kilter. The thick brush of communism, misogyny, petty crime and downright stupidity used to paint Branko and Branka's Eastern European caricatures is somewhat discomforting. Sure, it provides for the odd guffaw at an innuendo-packed malapropism – "give her a round of applause" becomes "give her the clap" – but surely this sort of send-up has been ridiculed itself for a number of years? Particularly depressing is the foising of these stereotypes on the numerous children in the audience. For kids reading this, 'Kerplunk' is not a small town in Croatia famous for owl soup and plutonium storage. It's a wholesome and exciting game for all the family.
You'll enjoy Branko and Branka so long as you can wholeheartedly and unequivocally accept the stupidity of the Croatian people as envisioned by these two performers. If not, you probably won't.