When they opened in July 1892, Hornsey Road Baths – and Laundry – included “one of the largest swimming baths in the Kingdom” and was home to London’s first all-female swimming club. In the winter, the pools were floored over and used for public meetings, lectures and entertainment. In an echo of the alternative uses to which they were put in the last century and by Big Space Productions and others after the Baths closed in 1991, the surviving Grade II listed buildings are now the home of theatre company Stockroom – formerly Out of Joint – and the Collective Acting Studio.
Running until 2nd December, Stockroom’s first production at the Collective is Influence, which the marketing materials promise will be “an enchanting journey through a long-forgotten act”. However, as will become clear, Influence is much, much more than an evening of magical trickery. From the outset, we are in the hands of The Magician, played by rising star Kit Young, who explains that he has decided to follow in the footsteps of his grandfather – whom we are told was the real-life “jobbing conjurer” John Wade, a Gold Star member of the Inner Circle of the Magic Circle. And, in a space that Natalie Pryce has beautifully designed, The Magician will entertain us with his grandfather’s repertoire of tricks, opening with a simple but brilliantly executed bit of mindreading. While the act is mostly familiar, everything feels fresh in the hands of the charismatic Young. As well as mentalism, there is escapology and more until, with the interval looming, there is time for just one more trick…
Which is pretty much all this reviewer is prepared to say about Influence… and for good reason. Suffice it to say that anyone – anyone – who takes seriously Young’s invitation to “trust me, I’m a magician” will be making a very serious mistake. The production takes everything you know from the world of Derren Brown, Houdini, David Copperfield and Chung Ling Soo and mixes it with the most infamous piece of theatrical weaponry and the carefully seeded tricksiness of BBC2’s Inside Number Nine to deliver one of the most consistently entertaining productions this reviewer has seen in years. Full marks to everyone involved in bringing Influence to the stage, especially the writers Georgia Crowther, Chris York and Maheni Arthur, and the director, James Hillier, who has also adapted and directed the new production of Jeffrey Bernard Is Unwell currently running at the Coach and Horses in Soho.
Kit Young stars in this story of deception. Bringing back a long-forgotten act as The Magician, he takes you on an unexpected journey. Behind every trick is a motive and The Magician is ready to see just how influenced you can be.
Hornsey Road Baths
2 Tiltman Place
London, N7 7EE