The Illusionists

  • Theatre
  • Drama
1 Love It
Alastair Muir
Alastair Muir
Shaftesbury Theatre , Covent Garden Until Sunday January 3 2016

A mixed bag of magic tricks, performed by men

Derren Brown’s ‘Miracle’, West End summer hit ‘Impossible’, TV boy wonder Dynamo’s 16-night stint at the Hammersmith Apollo… believe it or not, large-scale magic shows are making a serious comeback.

The latest spectacle promising to amaze London is Broadway hit ‘The Illusionists’: a magic package show, featuring seven acts, all performing different conjuring genres. And it’s a cock-fest. All seven performers are male and, by its very nature, the show’s pretty hit-and-miss.

Scottish mindreader Colin Cloud – aka ‘The Deductionist’ – opens the show (with a slightly-fudged numbers trick) and takes on the role of compere, introducing his fellow ‘Illusionists’. We see Andrew Basso, a torso-flexing escapologist with a messiah complex, reenact Houdini’s famous water tortune escape; mad-scientist magician Kevin James perform an exposed version of sawing someone in half; and ‘special guest’ Jamie Raven – off of ‘Britain’s Got Talent’ – impress with some nifty sleight-of-hand, all set to moody backing music.

Strangely, it’s the less deceptive acts that are most entertaining. ‘Weapons Master’ Ben Blaque’s crossbow routine is all killer, no filler; he simply enters, flicks back his luscious hair, and then fires an arrow into an apple on his own head using a series of chain-reaction targets. David Williamson’s comedy magic routine, with the help of four child assistants from the audience, is charming, if not awe-inspiring.

The real star of the show is Japanese magician Den Den. His subtle card manipulation and origami dove routine is astonishingly impressive and, unlike many of the other acts, actually classy.

And that’s the problem with ‘The Illusionists’: it’s not quite sure what it wants to be. It tries to find a middle ground between unashamed Vegas cheese and the grittier, edgier feel of modern street magic, and I’m not sure that ground exists. Still, there are plenty of baffling moments, and really that’s all ‘The Illusionists’ promises to deliver.


Venue name: Shaftesbury Theatre
Address: 210 Shaftesbury Avenue
Transport: Holborn or Tottenham Court Road tube
Price: £15-£85. Runs 2hr

Average User Rating

4 / 5

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1 person listening
Hend A

Amazing performance, good value, and even rear seats had a very good view. Took my parents to see it and they had a vey pleasant evening! Great magic show, better than any magic show I've seen before. It is a very fast paced 2.5 hours and there isn't a dull moment. Highly recommend!

Emma P
Staff Writer

Ok, The Illusionists show can be pretty cheesy between tricks, but it's a really good alternative family Christmas show to pantos and The Nutcracker. A rosta of magicians each do their thing between dance routines and the tricks are impressive. Jamie Raven from Britain's Got Talent is probably the best known name here, but he's not the strongest stage presence. Den Den 'The Manipulator' has close magic sewn up with paper birds that keep multiplying and disintegrating. The wittiest is David Williams 'The Trickster', who gets people up on stage (our daughter included) and gently makes fun of them. For gasp-out-loud moments, Ben Blaque 'The Weapons Master' beats everyone with his intricate crossbow shenanigans. It would be nice to see some women magicians in the line-up, but you can't have everything.