Please note that this review was for a preview performance attended on Wednesday 18th December 2019.
In today’s age of political correctness and having to be careful about what you say, comedy can be difficult. It’s hard to find something that everyone will find funny, something that everyone can laugh at without the worry of offending anyone but in recent years there has been one company that has managed to do just that. Mischief Theatre, the masterminds behind hits such as ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and ‘A Comedy About A Bank Robbery’ have treated the West End to two new shows this year. ‘Groan Ups’ played to popular acclaim in the autumn and now ‘Magic Goes Wrong’ is amazing audiences with it’s fabulous combination of illusion, chaos and comedy.
As you enter the auditorium, you are welcomed to the ‘Disasters in Magic Charity Fundraiser’, a telethon of sorts to raise money for those injured and affected by magic disasters, hosted by Sophisicato (Henry Shields), the son of a great magician who wants nothing more than to raise a lot of money and to prove to his late father that he has the ability to be a great magician too. To do so, he has put together this show, bringing in a number of fellow magical acts to help him out but as the title of the show suggests, it doesn’t exactly go according to plan.
By bringing in elements of slapstick, audience interaction, genuine magic tricks and a surprising amount of gory moments, Mischief Theatre along with Penn & Teller have created a show that has something for everyone. We are treated to a number of hilarious acts from The Mind Mangler (Henry Lewis), who proved a film favourite of the audience as he desperately tried to guess peoples names and jobs and stumbled through a number of mind reading tricks with the help of Mickey (Jonathan Sayer). Dave Hearn plays The Blade, a fearless magician with a desire to attempt the most dangerous tricks available to him delighting in making the audience squirm. Bryony Corrigan and Nancy Zamit play Spitzumas and Bear respectively, a double act of acrobats and quick change artists who have the audience laughing every time they come on stage. Rozy Faridany plays Eugenia, special guest at the fundraiser who is more than happy to take part in the tricks, even when they are not going well.
Every time I see a Mischief Theatre show, I am amazed at just how cleverly everything is put together and simply cannot imagine the amount of planning that has to go into it. Every trick, every action, has to be done in such a precise manner in order to allow the desired effect. For things to go wrong, everything has be done right to both please the audience and ensure the safety of the cast, especially with some of the tricks in this one.
Magic Goes Wrong is slick and smart in every moment, with action beginning even before the show has started with cast members coming into the audience, and this audience interaction continues throughout the performance. Although it was brilliant to see the cast talking to audience members and using the conversations for further comedic effect, I was left wondering if any of it was set up, some of it managed to fit into the plot just a little bit too easily for it just to be a coincidence in my opinion. Nevertheless, it did allow for some brilliantly funny moments.
Whilst the comedy of ‘The Play That Goes Wrong’ and ‘A Comedy About A Bank Robbery’ comes mostly from clever word play and classic slapstick farce, ‘Magic Goes Wrong’ injects a bit more of an adult feel with danger and gore. And whilst this may not be to everyone’s taste, it is was done well enough to cause a lot of laughter and didn’t take it too far. That being said, it does mean that this show may not as family friendly as others but I would say that it was still suitable for older children and adults in search of a laugh.