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Barry and Stuart: Show and Tell – Lowry Theatre, Salford

Reviewer: Tracey Lowe


With magicians, a lot of their appeal lies in the mystique. Fantastic feats happen before your very eyes, and you go home thinking “how in the world did they do that?” Performers like Derren Brown create no illusions, beginning his act telling the audience that he possesses no psychic or magical powers whatsoever. Barry and Stuart are very similar. Show and Tell is split into two halves. First, of course, there is “The Show”, where they perform wonderfully entertaining tricks with their cheeky schoolboy charm. Then follows “The Tell”, where they tell the audience exactly how they did every trick. They do give audience members the option to leave at the interval if they want to remain mystified, but I don’t think anyone took them up on the offer.

“The Show” begins with a simple trick, where Stuart appears to emerge from thin air. However, they repeat the trick, and ask the audience to wear their rose-tinted glasses, handed out as they arrived. Once wearing these glasses, the audience can watch the screen and find out exactly how Barry and Stuart performed the trick. However, if anyone wanted to remain in the dark, they simply had to leave their glasses off. It worked perfectly, and was ridiculously clever.

The rest of the first half involves various card tricks, fantastic use of memory and a particularly shocking finale. They also turn water into wine and compromise the life of an innocent goldfish. As a stand-alone show it would be great, but the really interesting stuff comes in the second half.

I can’t give away too much about “The Tell”, as I’m pretty sure Barry and Stuart and members of the Magic Circle would come and track me down. Painstakingly going through every stage of a magic trick has the potential to be very dull, but these guys are so engaging, and their enthusiasm for magic is infectious, so the explanation is almost as interesting as the initial trick. The audience is also invited to ask any questions, and we were even treated to a ghost story before they leave.

traditional magicians can be seen as a bit cheesy and dated. I believe that in order to be a good magician, you have to be a little bit dark and subversive. Barry and Stuart are definitely these things, but they are also very funny and entertaining. This is not a magic show for children, and you could see some parents wincing at some of the language used in the show. This is two hours of great stunts from two amazing performers, with a little bit of insight into their twisted world.

Reviewed on 3rd June 2012

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