In the modern landscape of superhero blockbusters, The Illusionists are like the Avengers of magic – an international super-team of the some of the world’s greatest mentalists, magicians and conjurers.
The Shaftesbury Theatre plays home to this evening of magical delight and the atmosphere is set well from the start with a number of messages from The Mentalist, Chris Cox, about the Control Chris Cox Cards being passed out to the audience. Naturally curious, my sister and I both fill a card in, slip them into opaque envelopes, seal them and pop them into the ominous on-stage box, as per the instructions. More on this later.
The show opens with a great warm-up act from the hilarious Trickster, Paul Dabek. Paul is a natural showman and emcee, with great patter and wonderfully quick wit. His spotted appearances throughout the show provide welcome bursts of comic energy, along with an especially impressive trick with a Hovis brand ‘deck of cards’. One of the most wonderful moments in the show comes with Dabek’s Circle of Life shadow puppetry show – reducing the whole room to childlike amusement.
Enzo Weyne, dubbed The Unforgettable, truly lives up to his title with some of my favourite illusions of the evening. Handsome, effortlessly charming and a master of his craft, Weyne stands out with his beautifully straight-forward presentation of some of the most incomprehensible tricks of the show, including his childhood teleportation machine, capable of making objects disappear and reappear in the blink of an eye.
Jonathan Goodwin, recently of Britain’s Got Talent, is the most hardcore of the group as The Daredevil. He makes very clear that what he will perform involves no sleight of hand or trickery and instead are feats of endurance and mental strength. His first feat, involving an audience volunteer slapping him in the face with increasing welly and an unlikely assistant named Fluffy, is equal parts horrifying and enthralling. Goodwin’s act is car crash spectacle at its best – you don’t want to look but you can’t take your eyes off of him.
James More, the Showman, is an enigma from start to finish. His speechless presentation really capitalises on his Illusionists moniker with dancers, large set pieces and heavy music, offering a really nice change of pace from the other acts.
Adam Trent is The Futurist, specialising on the trajectory of modern magic as technology becomes more and more advanced. His choreographed sequence in front of two LED screens as he makes objects leap from the projection into being and back again, finishing with a dimension-defying jump across an empty space via digital portals is wonderful viewing and an exciting preview of the future of magic.
Chris Cox, The Mentalist, returns to the stage with puppy-like enthusiasm and his excitement is infectious. I mentioned earlier filling in some Control Chris Cox Cards – without revealing too much, the cards comprise of an assortment of seemingly random questions, all of which differ on each card. Before long the box, which has never left the audience’s view, is lowered and Chris grabs out a couple of the mystery cards. One of which, to my hysterical delight, is my sister’s! Chris’ hilarious antics to establish connections with his participants have the audience flitting between giggles and groaning. He is able to determine the answers to all of the questions and even throws in bonus tidbits. If I had to offer any criticism, it would be that I felt Chris downplayed his brilliance a touch too much early on because the pay off is absolutely marvellous!
The final member of the Illusionists line-up is Yu Ho-Jin, deemed the Manipulator. This man is a world master, with numerous Grand Prix titles to his name, and, from the second he steps on stage, it is plain to see why. Ho-Jin’s performance is slick, impossibly so, plucking cards or even whole decks(!) out of thin air. His movement precise and balletic, this is almost more dance than it is illusion and I sit utterly motionless as I try to follow the truly magical presentation.
Overall, the show is brilliantly paced and thought out, offering something for everyone. The two-hour show flies by unbelievably quickly and I am desperate for more the second it had finished, a feeling shared, no doubt, by the rest of the full house during the well-earned standing ovation. It is very difficult to describe the show beyond the obvious: it is truly magical. This collection of magical marvels have put together one of the best theatrical evenings anywhere and I really must implore you to catch it if you can.
Review by Ben Powell
The Illusionists is a mind-blowing spectacular showcasing the jaw-dropping talents of seven of the most incredible illusionists on earth. Collectively these performers have been seen by millions across the world and this production showcases their collective talents on stage together for the very first time. The Illusionists has shattered box office records and dazzled audiences of all ages around the world with a powerful mix of the most outrageous and astonishing acts ever to be seen on stage.
This non-stop show is packed with thrilling and sophisticated magic of unprecedented proportions. Prepare to witness stunning acts of grand illusion, levitation, mindreading, and disappearance next summer!
BOOKING PERIOD: 6 July 2019 to 1 September 2019
RUNNING TIME: 2 Hours 10 mins including interval
210 Shaftesbury Avenue
LONDON, WC2H 8DP