The most impressive part of the The Illusionists is by far the close-up magic. 'The Manipulator' displays some mind-blowing slight of hand, which was, for me, the best part of the show. The less built-up tricks are often far better than the dwelt-upon magic, being more surprising and harder to work out.
Some of the tricks are less impressive – the prop-based 'illusions', although having a good visual impact, are clearly just based on one clever piece of equipment, making them somewhat anti-climatic.
In terms of overall performance, The Illusionists is, unfortunately, let down by music and lighting, which comes across as quite tacky at times. A redeeming feature of the show is the humour introduced by some of the magicians (particularly 'The Trickster') – this keeps the pace of the show up, and helps to retain the audience's interest. The magicians are all very charismatic, and interact well with the audience.
Another good aspect of The Illusionists is the screen used throughout the show, which broadcasts footage from on-stage cameras, allowing the audience to see tricks up-close. Sometimes the screen detracts from what is going on across the whole stage, but it is mainly on at the right times – when there is any close-up magic to see – and off during the bigger tricks. This means that the size of the theatre does not make the magic any less intimate.
In terms of the individual performers, I was the most impressed by 'The Manipulator' (Den Den), 'The Magician' (Jamie Raven), 'The Trickster' (David Williamson) and 'The Inventor' (Kevin James). 'The Manipulator', as I have already mentioned, shows incredibly deft slight of hand; 'The Magician' is impressive all-round, and extremely charismatic; 'The Trickster' was engaging and very funny, whilst also bringing to the show a few really good tricks; 'The Inventor' performs some unbelievable tricks, without building them up too much or masking them in over-the-top staging.
If you go to see The Illusionists in the knowledge that it is a fun, at times very impressive, but not by any means flawless display of tricks, then you will probably really enjoy the show. It is certainly very engaging and visually impressive – children in particular would enjoy the performance. The Illusionists finishes its run in London on the 3rd January next year; you can catch until then it at the Shaftesbury Theatre.