Every time we step into a theatre, we experience a bit of magic: the suspension of disbelief, the alchemy of words into matter, the skill of performers that hold our attention captive while simultaneously allowing our imagination to soar.
The Illusionists Live takes things one stage further, delivering ‘real’ magic of the sort that makes you stare at your neighbour in shock, and leaves you scratching your head on the journey home.
It’s dazzled audiences from Broadway to Las Vegas, across 71 cities in 17 countries, and we were lucky to see the production at Shaftesbury Theatre featuring special guest Jamie Raven of Britain’s Got Talent fame.
We’d seen Jamie Raven on YouTube clips and he’s no less impressive in real life, pulling off mind-boggling tricks with self-effacing charm.
The Illusionists: The Magnificent Seven
-the Magician, Jamie Raven, one of the most talked about new names on the scene;
-the Deductionist, Colin Cloud, who baffled us with his uncanny predictions and calculations (such as giving us the precise time off a random number that I called out, amongst others from the crowd);
-the Manipulator, Den Den, whose sleight of hand work is sheer visual poetry;
-the Trickster, David Williamson (posing with Ezra below), who is as funny as he’s clever with his card tricks;
the Escapologist, Andrew Basso, whose Harry Houdini stunt had us all shaky with nerves;
-the Weapon Master, Ben Blaque, who was pretty handy with a crossbow;
-and the Inventor, Kevin James, who sawed someone in half (complete with bloody guts) and had us gasping as the lower body strolled casually off the stage.
There’s a thick layer of cheese underlining this show, with dry ice, random explosions, and backing dancers dressed like Phantom of the Opera meets Michael Jackson music video. But that only adds to the fun and there are also genuine laugh out loud moments.
I couldn’t help thinking Paul Daniels must feel like a chump when he sees how slick magic acts have become. I also wondered why there were no female magicians, and whether the Magic Circle is really a club for those who grew up as geeky white boys, practicing for hours in their bedrooms.
Most of the time though, I was too busy being entertained to analyse things any deeper. The Illusionists live is a cracker of a show for all ages, although some scenes may be hard for very young viewers (we left Jed at home). If you fancy something a little bit different this Christmas, put this on your must-see list.
Ezra’s Review (age 9)
“Some absolutely mesmerising magic tricks by the Manipulator, the Inventor, the Trickster, the Deductionist, the Weapon Master, the Escapologist and Jamie Raven. My favourite bit was when the Escapologist had his ankles locked and was handcuffed upside down in a tank of water and managed to escape using a paper clip. Another of my best bits was when the Inventor turned a paper flower into a real flower. The Trickster was also really funny. We even saw someone being levitated! I’d rate that show 5 stars, without a shadow of a doubt!”
See The Illusionists live at Shaftesbury Theatre, 210 Shaftesbury Avenue, WC2H 8DP (Covent Garden tube). Shows at 11am, 3pm, 7pm & 7.30pm (times vary, check the website); tickets from £16.90-£65.20 (until Jan 3). Visit www.theillusionistslive.com