Magic Goes Wrong Festival Theatre

Here we have the latest offering from the “Goes Wrong” crew, Mischief Theatre – or perhaps that should be franchise rather than crew these days, given how they have built on the success of the original Play that Goes Wrong. With several follow ups, and two series on BBC television, they are a force to be reckoned with in the world of theatre.

For this foray into magic, they have teamed up with the impressive talents of Las Vegas and Broadway legends Penn and Teller. If you’re going to work with somebody, work with the best, provided, of course, the best are willing to see their astonishing illusions apparently reduced to a shambles on stage.

But anyone who has seen previous offerings from Mischief will attest that it takes an incredible amount of hard work, talent and split second timing to get the magic to go wrong in exactly the right way every night. Fortunately, this show has all of these in abundance.

The plot is wafer thin to say the least: The Great Sophisticato (Sam Hill) is staging a fundraiser for the charity Disasters in Magic in honour of his father, the original Great Sophisticato. To this end he has assembled the finest cast he can muster – a rag-tag bunch of the inept and deluded, failures all.

A slight difficulty here is that I can’t really say too much about the goings-on on stage, I wouldn’t want to spoil the magic, after all. But particularly wonderful is Rory Fairbairn as The Mind Mangler, a man who would struggle to read his own mind, far less delve into the minds of members of the audience. His double act with scene-stealing “member of the audience” Mickey (Daniel Anthony) provides many of the night’s highlights.

Sam Hill holds the whole thing together, even as the night apparently collapses around him with trick after trick going wrong, on a couple of occasions with fatal consequences. Jocelyn Prah and Chloe Tannenbaum dazzle as Spitzmaus and Bar, although they are burdened with “comedy German” accents that seems unnecessary. The one act that fell a bit flat for me was The Blade – not quite as spectacular as he might have been.

Largely aimed at a family audience, the running time of 2 hours with a 20 minute interval was perhaps overlong and it could be tightened up here and there. All in all though, an enjoyable and entertaining night at the theatre.

Jim Welsh

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