Performers: Rhys Morgan and Robert West
Reviewer: Glen Pearce
Aldeburgh often seems like it has been caught in a time travel bubble. Its quaint charms belonging to a more genteel time. It’s perhaps appropriate then that ‘time-travelling Victorian magicians’ Morgan and West visit the town as part of the HighTide Festival, inviting us to spend a Sunday evening with them, for a deliciously beguiling evening of prestidigitation.
It’s a format that suits the intimate space well, Rhys Morgan and Robert West mingling among the audience as they take their seats, selecting participants for tricks later in the evening as they do so.
Forget the increasingly special effects-heavy productions of some of their counterparts, here the focus is very much on the interplay between the duo and their audience. We’re warned from the start not to trust magicians and to watch out for distraction and sleight of hand but, even in the intimate confines of the former Victorian pumping station, were frequently left scratching our heads as to what exactly happened and more puzzlingly how.
There’s real chemistry between our conjuring duo, a real sense of Victorian melodrama and theatricality laced with a generous portion of humour. The laughter is a dangerous weapon in the pair’s arsenal, however; as we laugh with them another feat of magic is performed.
There’s also real chemistry and rapport with their audience, with members regularly invited up to the stage to witness various tricks at close quarters. There’s often a cynical view that these are plants but as this reviewer discovered, when invited onto stage unexpectedly, in this case these are genuine members of the audience. As Mr Morgan one by one has his senses disabled (via a fetching series of blindfolds, ear muffs, pegs and fur muff) he reads the minds of we the five random audience members. Be it what someone had for their breakfast, their occupation or in my case my date of birth (including a scurrilous accusation of my age by Mr Morgan), one by one we are sent back to our seats puzzled on how it was achieved.
It may seem quaint, old fashioned and less spectacular than some of the larger scale illusion shows, but it has something that all of those shows lack – a real heart. The piece is clearly highly polished and rehearsed yet it still maintains a slightly rough around the edges quality that you could imagine it being performed by the fireside in any Victorian home.
There’s a lot packed into an hour by the highly talented duo and once could easily spend longer in their presence, but it’s good old-fashioned entertainment to leave an audience wanting more.
Spiffingly good fun.
Photo: Steve Ullathorne