Review; Magic Goes Wrong, Vaudeville Theatre

PUBLISHED: 11:30 16 January 2020

Dave Hearn at The Blade in Magic Goes Wrong Picture: Robert Day

Dave Hearn at The Blade in Magic Goes Wrong Picture: Robert Day


The boys behind the ‘goes wrong’ hits have mostly pulled off a new trick mindmelding their slapstick with geniunely dazzling magic from Penn & Teller

Nancy Zamit and Bryony Corrigan in Magic Goes Wrong Picture: Robert DayNancy Zamit and Bryony Corrigan in Magic Goes Wrong Picture: Robert Day

The 'goes wrong' boys have teamed up with legendary American illusionists Penn&Teller to devise a magical twist on their usual schtick of ritual humiliation and impeccably-timed disaster.

And if the result doesn't have the comic momentum and narrative drive that has powered their previous hits that are still going strong in the West End - it's a consistently funny night out with some impressive conjuring thrown in.

We're at a fundraiser for illusionists who have expired in the line of duty.

Sophisticato is a magician manqué, forever banned from touching his father's props until one day pater is crushed beneath them and the son inherits his mantle. A flashing totaliser reminds us just how little has been raised, and lightbulb letters overhead sputter to spell out occasional rude messages.

The episodic scenes include Dave Hearn's leather-clad David Blaine-esque daredevil The Blade whose giant machismo is repeatedly punctured by the horrific props he's impaled upon.

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Henry Shield's Sophisticato is a gloomy angel of death, bungling tricks like sawing the lady in half or and freeing an accomplice from a locked water tank. And as for his father's trick with the live doves…

Best of all is Henry Lewis' Mind Mangler whose portentous claims about his heightened senses are continually scuppered by failure and a stage crew bent on sabotage. It builds across several scenes - full of audience participation - into a Fawlty-esque frenzy of laughter.

The weakest material goes to a tedious gag about Jonathan Sayer's hopeless stooge and a pair of German acrobats Bar and Spitzmaus who nevertheless kick off a decent running gag about a vicious bear.

Between the slapstick and choreographed incompetence, Penn&Teller and Magic consultant Ben Hart have woven in some genuine theatrical wizardry, from vanishing cabinets to unfeasible card tricks and someone shot from a gun.

Considering they were performing above Islington's Old Red Lion pub only eight years ago, the Mischief Theatre crew have done well for themselves.

And on a dismal January night, watching their superhuman efforts reduced by all too human failings is somehow a tonic.


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