A Regular Little Houdini review at the Warren, Brighton – ‘a breathless yarn’
In 1913, Harry Houdini leapt from Newport Bridge into the River Usk wearing nothing but pants and chains. In this pacy one-man show with a strong sense of place, a local lad with a passion for magic is there to greet him when he finally breaks the surface.
Daniel Llewelyn-Williams’s gabby protagonist – who picks locks with his nanna’s hairpin and practices his sleight of hand on the audience – is like a bright lantern lowered into a dark pocket of Welsh history. While his hero Houdini is performing flashy escapes around the world, Alan witnesses wonders and horrors closer to home. He sees the building of the Newport Transporter Bridge, a miracle of engineering. He stumbles upon the Newport Dock disaster, in which 46 “soldiers of industry” were crushed or trapped when the walls of a new sea lock collapsed.
There’s little space for reflection or unification of these themes. Instead A Regular Little Houdini is a show full of youthful momentum. Alan’s own daredevil stunt is grippingly told, the spotlight slipping to encircle his head and neck as he fights for breath in the “silt coffin” of the riverbed. Making a merit of the Warren’s claustrophobic Theatre Box space, this is both a breathless yarn and a dynamic account of Welsh history.