DramaNorth East & YorkshireReview

Magic Goes Wrong – York Theatre Royal

Reviewer: Ron Simpson

Writers:Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields, with Penn and Teller

Director: Adam Meggido

What makes Mischief’s latest show, Magic Goes Wrong, work so well is the things that go right. The inept patter of the magicians and the tricks that miss the mark are amusing enough, but it’s when a routine ends up with an unexpected bullseye that you realise that this is a really slick show. Even some of the disasters are pretty clever: the Great Sophisticato, reproducing his father’s dove act, covers the stage in feathers and reveals a very dead goose, but the innocents in the audience, such as your reviewer, are struggling to work out how he manages that! Presumably that’s the input of Penn and Teller and magic consultant Ben Hart.

The premise is that Sophisticato is hosting a charity event for the victims of magic disasters: his father, the original Sophisticato having died in dubious circumstances fits him for the task. Eugenia (Valerie Cutko) sets the whole thing up before largely disappearing in the second half (being chopped in two reduces a girl’s participation!), then Sophisticato introduces the Mind Mangler, the Blade and Spitzmaus and Bar – and the fun piles up.

Sam Hill plays Sophisticato with a pompous self-confidence easily punctured, always hanging on to his father’s wand in defiance of parental instructions until the final denouement. Rory Fairbairn makes much of little as the Mind Mangler: his mind-reading failures are predictable, but his rapport with the audience is terrific. Kiefer Moriarty as The Blade is the danger-man: throughout his assertion of being able to withstand anything is undermined by his shrieks of agony and the progressive loss of limbs. Best of all are Jocelyn Prah and Chloe Tannenbaum as Spitzmaus and Bar, not only for their own act, but for their support for the other artists, over-egging the pudding quite beautifully as “the glamorous assistant”.

Director Adam Meggido fills the stage with nonsense from assorted extras, from the steps-and-ladder by-play before the start to replace a missing letter in the charity headline, all the actors manfully squabble with each other and clutch the last vestiges of their dignity about them, but it’s the tricks that go right after going wrong that make the show. Sophisticato, with two audience volunteers, attempts to complete a card trick in the time The Blade can survive by holding his breath. In a frantic mess of hilarious card-dropping and misidentification, he runs to twice his allotted time, but eventually the right card appears! A human cannonball reappears miraculously, an Egyptian finale involves a double-take on just who Sophisticato is – and so on throughout, just when you thought incompetence was taking over!

Runs until 1st May before touring nationwide.

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The Yorkshire & North East team is under the editorship of Jacob Bush. The Reviews Hub was set up in 2007. Our mission is to provide the most in-depth, nationwide arts coverage online.

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