Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre

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Big magic shows are few and far between on west end stages – for a good reason. It takes a very special blend of charisma, showmanship and, of course, original tricks in order to be truly successful in what must be one of the hardest areas of the entertainment industry. The ‘Impossible’ team are a group of magicians, illusionists, mind readers and daredevils who have come together to present a series of magical and thrilling feats.

Even by their own admission there wasn’t going to be much originality in their tricks. The spectre of Harry Houdini that hangs over all magicians loomed large over everything they attempted. His famous straitjacket escape, the water cabinet escape, to name a few, plus that classic, but tired, sawn-in-half body trick. These were old tricks that here fell far short of being impressive or even ‘impossible’.

Bringing together a group of magicians might seem like a good idea commercially, but as a result it diluted the effectiveness of the acts. Everything seemed so formulaic from the individual acts coming out one by one, to the ridiculous intensity of the ‘magic’ music pumping through the speakers at every possible moment. Most of them wasted too much time talking about magic as opposed to actually doing it. They all had real talent, but they did not all have the combination of original tricks, an ability to engage the audience, humour, charm and showmanship. It would have been better for them to focus on their individual talents. Ben Hart was an interesting example. Yes he had a reasonably entertaining speaking act but he really shone when doing his short mimed piece involving magic white balls. His skeletal fingers really captivated us in a way his speaking acts did not. The one truly impressive feat of the show was when he transported an audience member seemingly by electrical currents from a chamber on one side of the stage to a chamber on the other. It had us all fooled and was without doubt the show’s highlight.

Two magicians who did stand out were Magical Bones and Chris Cox. Magical Bones had a personal touch about everything he did and his Peckham jokes went down a treat, however, we would much rather have watched him on the street. The space felt wrong for his up-close style of street magic. Chris Cox had a boyish humour, an ability to keep the crowd engaged and a very remarkable mind reading act.

This show made us reflect on what it takes to be a great magician. More than just the tricks, you must have charisma, personality and showmanship. This was a very mixed show with high points and low points. Perhaps in the West End we expect to see a one-off theatrical phenomenon from a solo performer. 

Highlight of the show – Magical Bones and the electrical transporting of the audience member.

WIGS 2/5

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