Sunday, July 14

Mind Mangler – Hull New Theatre

My reviewer mind started to be slightly mangled as I was handed my press pack in Hull New Theatre’s foyer on Thursday night, and told there would be no programme available for Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle.

No programme meant I had to really pull up my reviewer socks and, gulp, concentrate for the duration of the show.

After the initial shock wore off, I took my seat in row N of the stalls, after being handed a pencil and a folded card upon which we were asked to write our full name and a secret about ourselves.

Now, my regular reader will know I have an intense aversion to audience participation. So I tucked the blank card away from the prying eyes of the tall young man collecting completed cards from those eager theatregoers not as averse to the spotlight.

However (and I am jumping ahead to well into the first half of the show), my participation nightmare came to reality when my mug appeared on a huge on-stage screen after a mobile camera descended on the gentleman sitting directly in front of me. His card had been picked out by the Mind Mangler, who correctly guessed his secret of wiping his backside on his top upon discovering no toilet paper in a public loo while on holiday.

Seeing me on the screen is the only occasion I didn’t laugh during the whole time The Mangler, aka Henry Lewis, was on – and off – stage. He was hilariously funny, as was his side-kick “Mike” (Jonathan Sayer).

Physically like chalk and cheese, these two (creators of the infamous The Play That Goes Wrong) were like two well-oiled laughter machines, with perfect comedic timing and a lot of ad-libbing, especially when interacting with audience members.

The stage, surrounded my white lights, featured the aforementioned video screen, mainly showing the Mind Mangler, but also focusing on the audience at times.

Props rolled on and off at intervals – we had a French guillotine, a glass “disappearing” cabinet, Rubik cubes et al – plus, lots of smoke, flash, bangs, wallops, plus “mind reading” galore.

I’m a Mind Mangler virgin, but I got the impression many in the audience were knowledgeable fans of this crazy duo and were only too eager to have their secrets revealed to the rest of us in a reasonably full theatre.

Both Lewis’s and Sayers’ voices were loud and clear at all times, but the repetitive music played around their performance, did begin to grate.

At first “Mike” pretended to be an audience member and I did wonder if any other participants on the night were “plants”. It wouldn’t have mattered if they had been, it was all good fun.

Of course, the Mind Mangler being a member of the “Tragic Circle” left us in no doubt as to why his “magic” tricks went horribly wrong – although he managed to cleverly cover up his ineptness.

The first half of the show seemed to be quite lengthy and I began to wonder if there would be an interval.

There was and that’s when quite a few audience members gathered upon the stage to put their “unshuffled” Rubik cubes on to a board, in any order.

The reason became clear in the second half and, without giving anything away, it was a trick that actually worked!

Mind you, despite appearances to the contrary, Lewis and Sayer are no dummies and the final “trick” on the night was actually quite mind-blowing, eliciting a standing ovation from a very happy audience.

Despite my own, earlier, mind mangling, I enjoyed the, very clever, silliness of it all.

Reviewer: Jackie Foottit

Reviewed: 30th May 2023

North West End UK Rating:

Rating: 4 out of 5.