After repackaging old Beatles songs as a cheesy ongoing live tribute show called Let it Be, producer Jamie Hendry now repackages old magic routines as a cheerful, occasionally gobsmacking, West End variety show. It is, at its heart, a deeply old-fashioned entertainment, but it has been cleverly re-tooled for a new generation by a younger generation of acts.
There’s a Vegas-y feel to it, not least in the replaying of old David Copperfield tricks in which a sports car entirely vanishes (while — spoiler alert — Cameron Mackintosh is given a run for his money, in one of the theatres he owns, with the West End’s second helicopter landing from nowhere). There is also the inevitable selection of pouting, glamorous female assistants (they are always women, aren’t they?) who are are made to vanish and re-appear in a different place entirely, are sawn in half or have balloons popped over their heads by an archer using a crossbow.
Elsewhere, a buff escapologist called Jonathan Goodwin is hung upside down in a straitjacket, set on fire and has to escape before the flames consume him, while Ali Cook escapes from a tank of water in which he has been submerged in chains and is instantly replaced in it by another female assistant.
So far, so familiar, though there are one or two twists in the staging that make it feel fresh. It also works by accumulation: the show keeps hurtling onwards with seven headline acts providing constant variety. But it also does clever things by solving the problem of staging close-up magic, letting the entire theatre into the act by filming it and projecting it onto four large screens positioned over the stage and at the side of the stalls.
But two acts amplify the astonishment by engaging the entire audience — Luis de Matos, with an extraordinary card trick played with everyone, and Chris Cox, with his uncanny mind-reading of randomised spectators, that could be a full show in itself.
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