Written by: Penn Jillette, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer, Henry Shields and Teller
Directed by: Adam Meggido
Featuring “flashing lights, a live bear, and a quantity of glitter some may find offense” Leeds Grand Theatre welcomes a full, finally not socially distanced, house to Magic Goes Wrong, the hotly anticipated 2019 show from Mischief Theatre (the folk who brought you The Play That Goes Wrong) in collaboration with famously anarchic real life magicians Penn and Teller.
The show invites the audience into an evening where traditional stage magician Sophisticato (Sam Hill) is throwing a ‘Disasters in Magic Charity Fundraiser’ following the untimely death of his father, the original Sophisticato. With a chip on his shoulder, new Sophisticato hosts four other magical acts, each with a varying degree of success and professionalism. All the stereotypes are covered from struggling psychic, through bad boy danger magic and European double act, with a side order of washed up assistant and the odd black clad stage hand to boot.
Chaos inevitably ensues.
The real joy of Magic Gone Wrong is in gradually realising that in going wrong, the magic is generally going right. The doves being ‘dead’ don’t make their appearance any less magical, and an accidental human death or two still has enough pizazz to get a laugh and a cheer. This show isn’t just slapstick stupidity – although there is of course a lot of that thrown in.
For anyone who has ever seen a Penn and Teller show, some of the tricks may be a little familiar, although no less enjoyable for it. The end of Act 1 mimics a fantastic routine of theirs, which Hill pulls off with guile and clueless flair. And all the acts are parodies anyway – Kiefer Moriarty’s The Blade is a wonderfully funny send up of the Chris Angels of the magic world for example. Local references are peppered in naturally, which really helps to make the whole event seem like a real magic fundraiser rather than a play. Which is why the slightly saccharine and soppy ending feels a little jarring unfortunately, as it reminds the audience that they are not actually watching a Vegas extravaganza (well, a Skegness extravaganza maybe). Some of the running gags are also overused, like the ever tampered with teleprompter upsetting The Mind Mangler (David Nellist), and there is an ill advised gay joke in an otherwise completely inoffensive show (depending on your attitude towards the aforementioned amount of glitter).
Overall, Magic Goes Wrong is exactly what the world has come to expect from Mischief Theatre – comedic, chaotic, and wickedly hilarious.
Runs until 4th September