Nick Mohammed’s alter ego Mr Swallow has a Houdini tribute show to try out on us, complete with recreations of the magician and escapologist’s classic acts. Unfortunately, Mr Swallow hasn’t quite thought through the inherent danger of Houdini’s carefully crafted escapes, and, as a large, padlocked tank fills up with water behind him, cheating death before our very eyes is rapidly losing its appeal.
The chaos that ensues in this spellbinding feat of comic perfection is a laugh a minute, as Mr Swallow’s bemused assistants feed him lines and set up top-notch routines, most of which the inept conjurer manages to cock-up, but gets stopped in his tracks with astonishment when he does get a trick right. There’s patter, schtick and groaning gags galore – and the trio frequently burst into big number vaudeville songs with achingly funny, contemporary lyrics.
As Mr Swallow’s long-suffering assistants, David Elms and Kieran Hodgson are no mean slouches in the comedy or singing department and prove perfect foils for the would-be magician, who Mohammed vividly portrays via a non-stop physical totality which intensifies in comic anarchy as his impeccably researched script races ahead, meaning that not a line or gesture is wasted.
Director Matt Peover’s expert eye ensures that even the off-the-cuff minor sleights of hand that litter the show are no mere gimmicks, but, like the songs, form a vital part of the plot and exposition. The number reeling off all the magic tricks in the book is an entire mini-show in itself, while the powerful seance torch song alone makes Mr Swallow – Houdini a serous contender for the West End.