Review – Magic Goes Wrong, Vaudeville Theatre

Friday 10 January 2020

Phil thinks he knows a thing or two about magic.

After all it was he who was selected by Paul Daniels to perform alongside him and the lovely Debbie McGee in their Edinburgh show a few years back, taking part in a few tricks and ultimately facing the guillotine. When you’re kneeling with your head trapped in a lunette and staring into a head-catching basket stage nerves are replaced by a certain fear of what happens if something should go wrong.

So Phil has not inconsiderable respect for the sheer technical wizardry involved in Mischief Theatre‘s latest venture Magic Goes Wrong (the second production of their year long residency in the west end), in which the team play a hotchpotch of magicians presenting a charity event that of course goes disastrously wrong. Think Tommy Cooper but with a massive budget.

To paraphrase Dolly Parton, it takes a lot of talent to look this rubbish. American magic legends Penn & Teller have joined the usual Goes Wrong writing team of Henry LewisHenry Shields and Jonathan Sayer not to mention filmed guest appearances by other famous illusionists and J.J. Abrams (who produced The Play That Goes Wrong on Broadway) as one of the producers. Impressive.

Adam Meggido’s production concerns a fundraiser for people who have had accidents whilst practising magic, titled, err, (excuse the tautology) “The Disasters in Magic Charity Fundraiser” which is hosted by Shields’ Sophisticato who has father issues and does terrible things to and with doves. Lewis appears as Mind Mangler, a grumpy version of Derren Brown, who promises to “touch your dead relatives on stage” and tries to guess occupations of members of the audience. Amusingly, as this was the opening night, one of the audience revealed himself as a theatre critic (Mark Shenton since you ask).

Nancy Zamit and Bryony Corrigan send up the idea of the glamorous but cheesy magician’s assistant and appear as the act Bar and Spitzmaus who do very hokey German accents and hokey and actually rather impressive contorting respectively and the brilliant Dave Hearn appears as daredevil performer Blade whose stunts involve everything from catching a bullet in his teeth to stealing cheese from mousetraps. With his mouth.

Although all the tricks go wrong, in one way or another, there’s still considerable illusion involved in most of them them (magic consultant Ben Hart). We’re still trying to work out how The Blade’s impressive big Act 2 stunt was done. We’re sure it’s incredibly uncomfortable. The less you know the better. To reveal more about the Act 1 finale would spoil things. Let’s just say it’s very Penn & Teller and involves a split almost as messy as anything seen in the royal family.

If you’ve been watching their TV series The Goes Wrong Show (worth seeking out on BBC iPlayer if only for the inspired wallpapered missing leg gag and the Nancy Zamit/buff torso sequence in last week’s “The Pilot” episode) or seen their previous shows you’ll know to expect the usual mix of hit and miss gags occasionally dragged to beyond breaking point and side-splittingly funny moments of comedic genius.

The addition of Penn & Teller suggests that Mischief’s plan for global domination is proceeding unchecked. This show will no doubt disappear at some point and magically appear somewhere way beyond the west end.

What next? The Musical Goes Wrong in conjunction with Andrew Lloyd Webber? Mmmm, maybe he’s done that already.

Rabbit-hat rating copy



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