Monday, June 24

Mind Mangler – Alexandra Theatre

‘From the comedic minds behind “The Play That Goes Wrong” and “Peter Pan Goes Wrong”’ boasts the poster. Featuring two of the original “Play Goes Wrong” creators – Henry Lewis and Jonathan Sayer, both accomplished and veteran go-wrongers, with impressive CVs of chucklesome achievements and each with an enviable comedic reputation. The stakes and standards are high. Will the expectations and the boasts be met? Add into the alluring mix a couple of familiar names from the world of sleight of hand – Penn and Teller, though neither are present, their influence is felt. A perfunctory sniff around the branding and website would suggest a comedy magic show with a dollop of mind-reading leading to, as they used to say in the Radio Times, hilarious consequences. “The Play That Goes Wrong” was a dazzling display of slapstick and invention – albeit a litany of variations on the same joke – which sustained and maintained its premise without straining the possibilities of what could plausibly go wrong. The follow-ups have been follow-ons rather than transcending the original – so what magic will be conjured up with this offering?

Photo: Pamela Raith

Well it’s a hodgepodge of brilliant invention and truly hilarious comedy and some odds bits of flat padding. Where the show is tightly scripted it flies, where the actors stop to think of ad-libs it goes limp. That coupled with a few gags this wizened old critic has seen many times before (“Make your mind go blank – that was quick!”) and a routine Darren Brown has been touting round for years it makes for a show which is undoubtedly laugh out loud funny, but doesn’t reach the dizzyingly hilarious heights of comic ecstasy as did its predecessor, but then who could top one of the funniest shows in theatre history? It’s a semi-parody of every magic act we’ve seen where things do go wrong but not with the breathtaking catastrophe we expect. It’s gentler, smaller, but still funny.

Magic top hats off to Henry Lewis as the Mangler himself and Jonathan Sayer as his stooge who hold an audience for two hours and really pull the rabbit out of the bag. Despite a few odd swear words which seem ill-judged considering how many children follow the show – it makes for a clear and strongly comedic evening with no politics, no observations, no stories – just very, very funny entertainment. And a spoon.

Reviewer: Peter Kinnock

Reviewed: 27th May 2024

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.
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