Living up to the company name, Mischief Theatre are back with Magic Goes Wrong – taking their brand of mayhem and madness into the world of illusion. Amazingly, this show was co-written with Penn and Teller and follows the catastrophic attempts of wannabe magician Sophisticato, played by Sam Hill, has he tries to raise money for those injured by magic (which, after tonight’s show, is likely to be many more people.)
Hill is cheesy and a little awkward, exactly as expected in a show like this, and there’s something about his slicked-back hair and pained grimace that makes him all-too familiar somehow, as he tries (and fails) to keep control of the doomed show. He’s joined on stage by the Mind Mangler, played by Rory Fairbairn who has some really fantastic comedy moments. Less slapstick, more cheap gags that land really well with the audience, especially when it involves direct interaction with the audience themselves. Although Fairbairn’s sections were funny, they did seem to drag a little more than needed and could perhaps have benefitted from picking up the pace a little.
One part of the Mind Mangler’s act involves picking someone from the audience, who happens to be Daniel Anthony, playing Mickey (and Brian, or was it Steve?) who for me, was the stand-out star of the show. Beautifully clueless and naive, with terrible disguises and perfect comedy timing, Anthony was wonderfully likeable and every time he walked onto the stage, I was thrilled.
Another honourable mention needs to go to German duo Spitzmaus and Bar, who tickled the audience with very little speech and some hilarious physical comedy. Spitzmaus’ over the top sashay on and off stage and commitment to the bit delighted me, and Bar competing with her “gymnastics” was a lot of fun too.
I will admit that I didn’t love The Blade, played by Kiefer Moriarty and I think on some level I wasn’t supposed to. His sections made me roll my eyes, and felt a little too much – that said, there were some moments of “danger” that were a take-off of magicians like David Blaine, that did raise a wry smile.
Eugenia, played by Valerie Cutko, added some moments of glamour to the show (until a classic trick goes catastrophically wrong), and the set was stunning – even the light-up letters having their own moments of comedy.
The show is immersive, due to the subject matter, and even from the start with the stage crew making some last-minute fixes to the stage, you really do feel uniquely as though you’re watching a show that is about a show – and goodness is it good to be watching shows again!
There are some moments where the action really is droll. If you’re coming to the theatre with your family, wanting a fun time, a few big belly laughs, some vignettes of hilarity and a comforting shared experience after the past 2 years of isolation, it’s a fun night and worth a visit. But not quite the genius that is expected from the company at this point.
Magic Goes Wrong continues at Storyhouse, Chester until the 20th March with tickets available at https://www.storyhouse.com/event/magic-goes-wrong
Reviewer: Codie Wright
Reviewed: 15th March 2022
North West End UK Rating: ★★★