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REVIEW: Magic Goes Wrong at The Everyman Theatre

Magic Goes Wrong at the Everyman Theatre Cheltenham

Magic Goes Wrong

by Mischief® and Penn & Teller
© 2019 Mischief Worldwide Ltd and Buggs & Rudy Discount Corporation

Direction © 2019 Adam Meggido
Set Design © 2019 Will Bowen
Costume Design © 2019 Roberto Surace
Lighting Design © 2019 David Howe
Sound Design © 2016 Paul Groothuis
Video & Projection Design © 2019 Duncan McLean
Original Music © 2019 Steve Brown

Mischief®, Mischief Theatre®, Goes Wrong® and The Play That Goes Wrong® are trademarks and registered trademarks of Mischief Worldwide Ltd.  All rights reserved.  No rip-offs or bootlegs.  Come up with your own funny stuff.

The Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham
Tuesday, 8 February 2022

Rating: ★★★☆☆

Mischief® is the Domino’s Pizza® of theatrical comedy.  Whenever you order a Domino’s® Stuffed Crust® Pepperoni Passion®, you know exactly what you’re getting.  Instant heartburn!  No, but seriously … With any franchise – Domino’s®, McDonald’s®, Goes Wrong® – consistency is key.  Whenever you select a Mischief® product from the Goes Wrong® menu, you know that you’re getting exactly the same banquet of buffoonery as everyone else across the globe, that it won’t be too spicy or too different from any of the Goes Wrong® products you’ve previously enjoyed, and that you’ll soon be craving more of Mischief®’s secret sauce.

Magic Goes Wrong is a play about … er … magic that goes wrong.  It’s a co-creation of Mischief® and Penn & Teller, who lend their trademark American sassiness to the slapstick sorcery.  The show takes the form of a fundraiser for fictional charity Disasters in Magic, following the death (heavy props; weak joists) of compère Sophisticato’s magician father.  You just know that the fundraiser won’t meet its target.

The first half is a procession of magic acts that go wrong, again and again.  Mediocre mentalist The Mind Mangler (Rory Fairbairn) twists the audience’s answers to match his catch-all predictions, while being repeatedly stitched-up by the technical crew.  Dancer and contortionist Spitzmaus (“Shrew”, Jocelyn Prah) easily folds herself into a perspex box, while her diminutive partner Bär (“Bear”, Chloe Tannenbaum) can’t squeeze into her own, impossibly tiny, cube.  Stunt-magician The Blade (Kiefer Moriarty) keeps on injuring himself in a variety of ways. Sophisticato (Sam Hill) accidentally shoots his own doves.  Mickey (Daniel Anthony) pretends, with the aid of false whiskers, to be a variety of audience members.  Elegant Eugenia (Valerie Cutko) gives a gutsy performance while being sawn in two.  And so on.  And so on.  

Things pick up in the second half, as the characters come more sharply into focus, the background narratives gather momentum, and events spiral out of hand.  There are moments of genuine poignancy, as when The Mind Mangler quarrels with his lover Mickey, and when Sophisticato discovers his father’s secret.  The gags become sharper and funnier, too.  The late Humphrey Lyttelton used to say, “Never lose touch with Silly”, and the escalating silliness really lifts the second half onto a higher level.  Peak silliness arrives during a farcical séance in which the spirit of Gwyneth Paltrow, summoned by The Mind Mangler, has to Google the answers to Mickey’s questions.

The essence of the comedy is slapstick.  But, in a slapstick world, where bodies are impaled, arms are shot-off and corpses come inexplicably back to life, there is no jeopardy.  And without jeopardy, nothing really matters.  But these are just the impressions of a jaded, middle-aged man.  I’ll leave the last word to the (twelve-year old?) lad who, as we were leaving the theatre, turned to his parents and said, “That was brilliant!”

P.S. During the curtain call, Sam Hill (Sophisticato) interrupted the applause to urge everyone to buy tickets for Mischief®’s other touring productions.  Have no fear – there’s plenty more secret sauce in the pump dispenser.

Running time: 2 hours 10 minutes (including interval)
Magic Goes Wrong runs at the Everyman Theatre, Cheltenham, until Saturday 19 February 2022.

Reviewer: Paul Sharples
Explore Gloucestershire
9 February 2022

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