Review – The Illusionists, Shaftesbury Theatre

Tuesday 17 November 2015

11169299-largeHot 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..


2 Responses to “Review – The Illusionists, Shaftesbury Theatre”

  1. Glen Morranjie Says:

    I saw a weekday matinee of this during the first week of December. I got a special offer for the circle and hugely enjoyed the show. If you saw the show in Hammersmith the Professor’s effects will be familiar. The production of the cast (from nowhere) for the curtain call is quite stunning, done very quickly and with little cover.

    Magic fans on a tight budget may wish to note that they closed the upper circle and moved people down, so those in ultra cheap back row of upper circle seats may get bumped down to somewhere better and more expensive.

  2. Harriet Wilson Says:

    I agree, The Illusionists at the Shaftesbury Theatre is a fun display of various tricks and illusions, interspersed with sporadic moments of genius.–The-Illusionists-at-the-Shaftesbury-Theatre.aspx

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