The West End has new wizards in town. While Cambridge Circus awaits the return of Harry Potter in October, Wonderville, a new family-friendly show packed with magic and illusion, is keeping his place warm. Wonderville is a throwback to the type of vaudeville magic show of old, featuring an eclectic range of acts. Alongside the regular performers, there’s also a set by a guest artiste, one of a number performing at different shows. The energetic bowtie-wearing Chris Cox, a star on both Broadway and the West End, hosts and provides the links between the acts.
Cox is an excellent MC, affable and funny. He’s also a brilliant mind-reader, producing some stunning moments of “How did he know that?” and gasps from the audience as he follows in the footsteps of Derren Brown, but with a bright, bouncy, comedic twist and a flow of self-deprecating and at times physical humour. Edward Hilsum is a Magic Circle winner whose skills are focused on the more traditional magic tricks involving scarves, canes and doves, The birds are so incredibly well-behaved it is hard to believe they are real and not some clever animatronics or CGI. Involving a child in his second act set becomes a little “end of the pier”, but the young man chosen to go on stage at this performance looked suitably impressed by the experience and it produces a heart-warming moment.
Emily England is a circus artist who used the downtime of the pandemic to learn card tricks which she has added to her acrobatic moves, producing a performance of flowing grace. Standing in for the injured Josephine Lee, Kat Hudson, whose act wowed the Britain’s Got Talent judges, is full of Northern charm and understated presence while then zapping the audience with a mind-blowing piece of mobile phone trickery. The hula hooping, roller-skating Symoné is undoubtedly talented and entertaining to watch, but in a show otherwise billed as magic and illusion, it seems somewhat out of place and makes the whole feel as though it can’t quite decide whether it wants to be about magic or a more wide-ranging variety show.
The standouts though are Young and Strange, whose act is primarily a tribute to master illusionists Siegfried and Roy, who wowed audiences by producing white tigers out of thin air in the 1990s. The initial parts of their performance are more comedy duo than magic and feel very “Little and Large” in their presentation, but as their second-act performance ramps up, backed by throbbing rock music, it becomes a genuinely thrilling spectacle. Their final presentation is slick, stunningly fast-paced and also funny – and no white tigers are harmed.
Wonderville isn’t particularly new or cutting-edge and isn’t about to change the world of magic and illusion, but if you like watching people do amazing things, it’s a terrific evening out for all the family. There is truly something for everyone in this cornucopia of magic skills.
Wonderville Magic & Illusion continues at the Palace Theatre, London until the 30th August with further information and tickets at https://www.nimaxtheatres.com/shows/wonderville-magic-illusion/
Reviewer: Carole Gordon
Reviewed: 2nd August 2021
North West End UK Rating: ★★★