Ever watched a magic show and hoped it would go wrong? Then the Hippodrome’s latest production is one for you!
With two Mischief Theatre productions in a week I feel I’ve had quite the crash course in the hugely popular, one-time fringe company. But while last week’s The Play That Goes Wrong had the audience giggling even before the curtain went up, Magic Goes Wrong took a little longer for things to warm up.
The storyline is fairly simple; and if you’re one of those people who’s ever watched TV talent shows secretly hoping the trick will go disastrously wrong then it’s right up your street. Co-created with the legendary Penn and Teller, the show within a show invites us to an gala evening hosted by magician Sophisticato (Sam Hill) to honour his late father, who died when an attic full of unused tricks caved in on him. He’s lined up a whole host of terrible acts to perform in the hope of raising money for the Disasters in Magic Charity.
Drawing on a back catalogue of some of history’s most famous tricks, yes you’ve guessed it, anything that could go wrong inevitably does (the clue’s in the title). There’s the classic sawing the woman in half (with full-on blood and guts), knife throwing (with more blood), an escaped bear and endless mis-cues, all very Fawlty Towers.
But while the lukewarm first half raises a couple of laughs from me, the second half proved far funnier as the action took on a faster pace and some of the tricks were actually quite impressive. Getting members of the crowd up on stage to help as The Blade (Keifer Moriarty’s send-up of an edgy, alternative performer) “drowned” in a huge box was hilarious in a grown-up panto kind of way; while Sophisticato’s dove act was a delight to watch as he was surrounded by a piles of dead birds. The absolute highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Rory Fairbairn as The Mind Mangler. His unique way in guessing audience member’s details and occupations using just his senses (“I can taste your name”) had me, and everyone else around me, in stitches.
In true Mischief Theatre style, Magic Goes Wrong is proper good old fashioned vaudevillian theatre. From the slapstick catastrophes to comedy gore it was certainly an entertaining evening, and you can only admire the impeccably timing throughout. Clever touches included a “live” link to Derren Brown, a moment of reflection when we looked back at the magicians we’d lost in the last year, an amusing nod to health and safety, and an overhead donation counter that ended up in the red by the end of the night. Perhaps Penn & Teller’s contribution may have been more subtle than I would have liked, but there was just enough of it on show in the moments of genius that left us asking “how did they actually do that?”.
Magic Goes Wrong runs at Birmingham Hippodrome until Saturday (May 29). Tickets and more information available here.