Hot on the heels of Impossible during the summer (and with the Palace currently filled by Derren Brown before that Harry Potter thingy occupies the same venue for the foreseeable) it seems the West End can’t really get enough magic.
And usually nor can we.
But The Illusionists, an Australian franchise (now in its second Broadway run and travelling globally) is a curiously structured show which delivers – and throws away – its big showstopper in the opening sequence (a train appears on stage). How would they top that for the finale? Well, in a word they don’t. Nor do they even attempt to.
The USP here is Jamie Raven. Remember him? He made a helicopter appear on Britain’s Got Talent but was still only runner-up to yet another dog act that did its own canine sleight of hand and caused some to get quite hot under the, err, collar for some inexplicable reason.
The personable Raven is billed as The Magician and builds from an underwhelming trick with a £5 note, through snappy levitation with a
stooge boy from the audience, to his remarkable animated “flick-book” card stunt he’d done on BGT and on to, for us, his most impressive moment, tearing a newspaper apart and reassembling it. Sometimes the old ones are the best.
Colin Cloud produced great audience rapport as The Deductionist and works his comedy effectively, but although some of his act defies explanation, his climax was not quite a match for Chris Cox in The Impossible
Phil was mesmerised by Den Den, The Manipulator working elegantly with bits of paper and origami birds, though Andrew dismissed the act as “repetitive”. Act 1 ends with Andrew Basso, The Escapologist, impressively holding his breath under water for several minutes (cf Ali Cook in Impossible), but as much as the “danger” was milked it still proved a tad ho-hum.
Act 2 was more fun. The Weaponmaster, Ben Blaque added another touch of déjà vu after seeing Jonathan Goodwin (now on Broadway in The Illusionists) in The Impossible, though his final three tricks involving a newspaper page, balloons and a ricochet stunt did leave us open-mouthed in astonishment.
The Inventor, Kevin James performed some discombobulating tricks including dissecting a body with a chainsaw, though blew it by having the trolley carrying the two “halves” pushed into the wings before it was “reassembled”. Earlier in the show he’d trawled the audience desperately trying to find an an assistant that had to be “a young girl”. This was much more unsettling than anything else in the show.
But the highlight of the evening for us was The Trickster, David Williamson, not because he demonstrated any remarkable magic, something he acknowledges most amusingly, but because he got four young children up on stage and marshalled them like a seasoned panto veteran. We were in stitches.
He alone would have got a 5 star rating from us. But on aggregate we have something else up our sleeve..