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Vanishing Mankind review at Vaults, London ‘bewildering, baffling, brilliant’

David Aula and Simon Evans in Vanishing Mankind at the Vaults, London David Aula and Simon Evans in Vanishing Mankind at the Vaults, London
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How to describe a show like Vanishing Mankind? Theatre directors Simon Evans and David Aula turn performers again for this semi-sequel to last year’s The Vanishing Man, and the result is another headlong, head-spinning, head-scratching 80 minutes of magic, manipulation and shameless theatricality.

What’s it about? Well, everything and nothing. It’s about the history of the universe, and of life, and of humanity. It’s about the future, and Aula’s relationship with his unborn son. It’s about a plane armed with a nuclear warhead. And it’s about artificial intelligence, and a foul-mouthed computer called Max.

But it’s really about Aula and Evans and how much fun they can have with sleight of hand and subterfuge.

They’re a great double act, one dapper and decent, the other bald, bearded and belligerent. And they do have fun. Juggling all of the above, and more, in a whirlwind of relentless patter, quick-witted audience interaction, and Whatsapp messaging (you give them your number, if you want to, before the show begins), the pair construct a tottering, teetering framework of deception and distraction, held together by an increasingly outlandish, increasingly impossible narrative. The closest thing I can compare it to is one of the more self-consciously complex episodes of Sherlock. Only better.

From the seemingly simple (predicting a card, producing an egg from nowhere) to the utterly unbelievable (hypnotism, absurd degrees of suggestion), the show’s a bewitching delight. You’re putty in Evans and Aula’s hands throughout. Just enjoy them doing their thing.

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A baffling, bewildering and brilliant magic show from David Aula and Simon Evans