Yorkshire Times
A Voice of the North
Phil Hopkins
Arts & Travel Editor
11:00 AM 1st September 2021

Magic Goes Wrong – A Flash In The Pan?

Magic Goes Wrong is the new to me show by Mischief Theatre and, whilst it has some wonderful pastiche performances, I left Leeds Grand feeling I had witnessed a disjointed series of ‘sketches’ that would appeal to a teenage audience more at home with Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure.

For me Mischief Theatre productions are finite, hence why the company has to keep re-inventing itself more rapidly than most – which in fairness it does – with a whole series of ‘goes wrong’ concepts from Peter Pan to A Christmas Carol.

However, when you’ve seen one, you’ve seen ‘em all because, whatever the subject, you know what’s coming and that was exactly how I felt after watching Magic Goes Wrong for the first time: I was quickly bored by the puerile humour with odd ‘ring fenced’ exceptions: bit like an evening of cabaret really. Some good ideas, some not so good but very hard-working performers.

Previously I have twice watched The Play That Goes Wrong. I loved it first time but wanted to leave the theatre second time.

At the interval last night one couple walked out as I queued for an ice cream in the main auditorium. Their reason? “Not really for us.”

Equally, some were on their feet at the end of the show. Mischief Theatre: you either love it or you hate it but, almost certainly, you’ll belly laugh first time you see one of their shows!

Magic icons, Penn and Teller are credited as co-writers, along with Mischief Theatre founders, Henry Lewis, Jonathan Sayer and Henry Shields and, whilst the ‘magic’ illusions clearly have the hallmark of two hard-bitten Hollywood pros, names do not maketh greatness.

But performances do, which is why I take nothing from the wonderful
‘Mind Mangler’ David Nellist, the appallingly bad mind-reader who looked as though he had just walked out of Geordie Shore in his Simon Cowell waist-high pants, Buddy Holly glasses and gold medallion. Wonderful.

The players were cheese at its worst – but they were meant to be and they all played their parts wonderfully: Sam Hill as the totally incompetent magician host, Sophisticato; Keifer Moriarty as The Blade, more at home at slicing and dicing himself than his assistants, and German contortionists Spitzmaus and Bar played by Jocelyn Prah and Chloe Tannenbaum.

It was a fun evening and it would be wrong of this critic to make a wholesale damnation of this Kenny Wax production. It had momentary highlights, some wonderful ‘go wrong’ stunts, characters and plenty of showbiz but, as a show? Not for me but it will be the best thing since slice bread for newbiest to Mischief Theatre……other than the couple who left at the interval!

Magic Goes Wrong
Leeds Grand Theatre
Until Saturday September 4th