Shaftesbury Theatre, London – until 1 September 2019
‘Family entertainment’ is a bit thin on the ground in London at the moment, so I’m not being entirely dismissive of The Illusionists except to say that the only thing in the show which is ‘direct from Broadway’ is the concept.
Four of the seven magicians are home-grown: the one you’ll have heard of is single Welsh Dad Jonathan Goodwin whose muscular fire-escapology was the hit of the current season of Britain’s Got Talent.
The hyped format, with television style anthems, the constant urging of the audience to cheer and whoop and the over-use of pyrotechnics and blinding floodlighting is all that’s nasty about X Factor, and diminishes rather than supports the talent on stage.
Someone’s also done a deal with Top Man for the costumes which are, by and large, shit. The female magicians’ assistants, however, seem to have been dressed from a fetish shop during a fire sale.
Are there many contemporary female magicians by the way? I can only think of Fay Presto who, now in her seventies, would probably frighten the tinies.
Who did I like? Adam Trent is possibly the most charming but his jumping in and out of the back projection screen becomes as self-indulgent as Gene Kelly dancing with the mouse from ‘Tom and Jerry’ in Anchors Aweigh. The ‘I can’t tell how he does it’ moment is furnished by James More who apparently pushes himself through a sheet of steel while locked in a cabinet.
There’s a Frenchman called Enzo Weyne whose accent is so impenetrable they should provide subtitles to stop you losing interest entirely in his act. There’s a Korean who works in silence and only by sleight of hand to produce more playing cards than you think could be contained in a wizard’s sleeve.
Sue Perkins-lookalike Chris Cox is the most originally entertaining – even if some of the ‘mind-reading’ could be gleaned from copping a feel of a chosen punter’s online booking and Facebook page – but he does it very well.
It’s not overpriced, it does hold your attention – even the row of 11 just-out-of-school-for-the-holidays girls on booster cushions behind me didn’t talk or fidget during the show – so if you have some, take them.
until September 1