'Master of the Macabre' comes to Hoxton Hall in Spring 2017. This review is from the 2015 run.
There’s a layer of cobwebs and mystery hanging over Benedict Barber, the Master of the Macabre, a spooky magician supposedly plucked from the obscurity of Covent Garden and prodded into the spotlights by his ‘magical consultant’ Chris Dugdale. Truthfully, there’s a lot more mischief to this evening of seasonal magic than meets the eye, as an experienced team builds a truly theatrical mixture of twisty plotting and illusion.
The first half is an enjoyably kitsch bout of card magic and conjuring, with our host spicing up a fairly run of the mill set of tricks with the addition of spiders (both plastic and skin-crawlingly real), bridges to the recently deceased and vanishing eyeballs that explode in a cloud of misty tendrils.
Barber’s patter is sharp and fluid, his command of the room impressive even as he lays the Gothic on thick. His set treads the line between the cosily camp and the genuinely creepy with skill, as he lays a trail of breadcrumbs to a spectacular and unsettling denouement.
The second act is where it all kicks off, as ‘Master of the Macabre’ reveals itself as a plucky successor to fellow magician Andy Nyman’s long-running ‘Ghost Stories’. If it never quite builds to those box office-busting chills, it’s still a cracking Halloween night out, and a cunning repackaging of an already successful magical brand.