Writers: Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, with Penn and Teller
Director: Adam Megiddo
Working on the premise that whatever can go wrong will go wrong, and apocalyptically so, the evergreen touring Goes Wrong franchise now debuts its latest denouement disaster spectacular, Magic Goes Wrong – and doesn’t it just.
The Penn and Teller dynamic duo has teamed up with the ‘Wrong Boys’ for a silly-Billy return bout of frantic physical comedy.
Predicated on earlier shows’ Director’s pep-talk that, ‘It’ll be alright on night – this night!’, tonight’s ensemble cast evidently missed that vital drama tutorial covering two elemental aspects of Coarse Acting, namely – be ever aware of the cold, skeletal finger of Hubris tapping on your shoulder and, as a palliative to this, resign oneself to – ‘Hey! Schtick Happens.’ Tonight, both are in absurd abundance (and more, much more) executed with their trade-mark skill, timing and more wizard spell-binding, belly-bellowing guffaws than Merry and Pippin having toked on Gandalf’s pipe.
Abracadabra, hocus-pocus, will they conjure up some sleight-of-hand to distract the audience’s focus? Bells and whistles, smoke and mirrors? As glove-puppet, Sooty would say, waving his magic wand -’Izzy-wizzy, let’s get busy!’
The intended conceit (the clue is in the title) seemingly executed in all sincerity, is predicated on the construct of a Magicians’ Ensemble fund-raiser for the hapless demise of fellow practitioners of the arcane arts – Disasters In Magic Charity Fundraiser. What could possibly go wrong? Seemingly everything and then some given that all acts are unified by a bond of deluded aspirational fame, incompetence and a Tech Crew viciously at play with the Auto-Cue.
What then of MC/Compere, Sophisticato, played with such ingratiating, sublime desperation by Sam Hill? Carrying the mantle of his eponymous father’s legacy – two tons of stage props and a serious inability to internalise his Oedipal vexations – he so desperately wants The Show to go right. Perhaps the pre-show tableau of the Tech Crew frantically chasing about back-stage is a top-hat escaped rabbit of ill omen.
Maestro of faux-magical aspirational delusion, Sophisticato looks to the heavens for divine inspiration – perhaps even deus ex machina intervention: he will later rue this bitterly. His finale, piéce de resistance, a sleight-of-hand handkerchief-to-live doves illusion, is a masterpiece in catastrophe.
Welcome, now, Kiefer Moriarty’s agonisingly brilliant, The Blade. A kitsch, numbskull Ninja-Goth study in heavily metalled blunder, his arsenal of stage-prop knives is infinitely sharper than his wits. He feels, NO PAIN: he’s about to. Clowns (the Cast) to the left of him, Jokers (Tech Crew) to the right, he’s about to get stuck in the middle of an A&E queue. Enter magnificently, as though sent asunder astride a thunderbolt, the statuesque, Demi-goddess of put-down, Eugenia (Valerie Cutko). Her role is part of the woman-sawn-in-half classic routine. And in demonstrating the ‘throw’ both Sophisticato and Mind Mangler (more of him anon) proceed to circular saw her literally apart. Viscera spilling to the floor as the hysterical audience hold their sides to prevent the same fate – cue interval curtain-call. A show in two parts as it were.
Mind Mangler Rory Fairbairn’s naughty homage to Sean Lock stripped of both talent and charisma draws a spell-bound audience into his esoteric world of his uncanny command of the five senses. With ludicrous ineptitude and contrived manipulation, his magic wand is more of a barge-pole poke in the eye. As the routine begins to rapidly unravel, he elicits some measure of pathos from the audience, an empathy exacerbated by the merciless Tech Crew re-scripting his autocue with Puck-like menace. He crumbles in despair – medics attend to an oxygen-deprived howling audience.
The impossibly golden spandex duet, Spitmaus, led by the Teutonic enfant-terrible, Jocelyn Prah and her anonymous vixen of revenge, Disco, glitter rough-shod through their cod-Deutsch debacle of impossible costume changes and lethal levitation.
This is ‘The Wrong-Uns’ under director Adam Meggido’s magic wand wizardry, at their very best with – now you see them, now you don’t – brass knobs on. By the closing curtain, the Hippodrome’s in more stitches than a sewing machine on steroids.
Reports of a magic-trick gone wrong, and an escaped, angry bear in the immediate vicinity of Snobs Nightclub, Central Birmingham have, as yet, not been denied by the authorities. The public is warned not to intimidate said bear by waving sticks that might be mistaken for a magic wand!
Runs Until 29 May 2022