Chris Eldon Lee reviews ‘Impossible’, which is at The Regent Theatre in Stoke on Trent until Saturday 12th March…and touring.
“Trust me, I’m a magician” implores one of the six young, energetic and pretty damn exciting stars of this show. But he was on safe ground. The audience was already eating out of their hands…hungry for even more spectacularly staged impossibilities.
This auditorium was no place for cynics. But it was a very good place to be if you’re prepared to be drawn in by clever trickery and classy production values. With its driving drumbeats, athletic, lycra-clad show girls, and impressive Las Vegas effects, it’s about as far away from David Nixon as you can possibly get. And when the time comes for some of his more homely, close-up magic to be re-created with individual audience members, it’s splashed across a plethora of video screens.
The six entertainers encompass end of the pier stand up, spooky spiritualism, mind reading (by a Timmy Mallett look alike who says he can’t really) and some devilishly dangerous escapology. And yet, running as a back-story to the whole show, is the performers’ honest homage to those magicians of old who had done these tricks before; some as long ago as the 19th Century. It’s just when this generation does them today, there’s a stunning 21st Century twist at the end.
My own sleight of hand for the evening was my companion ‘The Mysterious Gareth Jenkins’ – former chair of the Shropshire Magic Circle. He was having great fun recognising the tricks. Yes, Harry Houdini escaped numerous times hanging upside in a straight jacket – but not, as Jonathan Goodwin does today, after setting fire to himself first.
The great Mel Mellors used to do a fast-action sequence of card tricks whilst telling a story to coincide with the cards he turned up. ‘Mr Magical Bones’ now does this to a pre-recorded hip-hop, rap track… which gives him no room for error or adjustment. Lee Thompson dons a Victorian cape – just as P. C. Selbit used to do 130 years ago – to chop a lady in half (a rather courageous Miss Douglas) but again his dénouement is his own. And when cross bow arrows are fired blindfold – as Hans Moretti used to – around a blonde model standing in front of a box, there is a fresh surprise when the box is finally opened. This team of illusionists really are pushing the barriers.
The tricks are hyped and blatantly ‘dressed up’ – a simple sleight being given an overtly lavish treatment. And there’s plenty of opportunity for the willing audience to join in. None more so than in the most mystifying trick of the night…a low-tech routine in which each audience member tears up a set of picture cards and stuffs half a card in their pocket. All sorts of pro-longed antics ensue … but in the end, the half-picture that remains in your hand is the exact twin of the one in your pocket. All evening, Gareth had been patiently explaining to me how he knew each trick was being done; but he was baffled by that one. “It’s impossible”, he said. Which is quite a good name for a magic show.