In a way there’s something appealingly old fashioned about this show at the Noel Coward Theatre; like a return to my childhood when variety and summer seasons were so popular with audiences, and, along with panto, ignited my own lifelong love of theatre.
Eight magicians come together here in one production and produce some often mind-boggling tricks, illusions, escapology and acts of daring that makes for a thoroughly entertaining evening and covers the whole gamut of the magicians’ art.
Among them we have the sleight of hand close-up magic of Ali Cook, which is helpfully projected onto screens around the auditorium; the physical stunts of Jonathan Goodwin; mind reading from Chris Cox, and Jamie Allan gently bringing the art into the 21st century with some neat trickery involving iPads.
Impossible gets off to a bit of an underwhelming start though, with not all the magicians seeming that comfortable with their patter to the audience. But that picks up with the appearance of mind reader Chris Cox, who displays a neat line in self-deprecating and off the cuff comedy that certainly gets the crowd on side and raises the energy levels quite considerably.
And the show seems to struggle with the problem of bringing the performers different styles together as a cohesive whole. It can’t make up its mind whether to be a Vegas extravaganza with its lasers and loud music or a more stripped- back edgy show in the street-style of David Blaine and Dynamo. There’s an attempt at some sort of narrative with a small boy discovering the wonders of magic, which unfortunately isn’t very involving and actually fizzles out a bit, and references to legendary magicians of the past — Houdini in particular. But I think it needed a stronger writer to give a better flow and some context.
What people have come to see though is the magic and that doesn’t disappoint at all. Even if much of what’s on offer here you might have seen in some form before, you still marvel at how its done and the aplomb with which its carried off.
Jonathan Goodwin creates a sweaty palm moment with a stunt involving a girl and a lethal crossbow, and Ali Cook equally has the audience holding its breath along with him in a stunning twist on Houdini’s legendary water tank escape.
We see a box folded into a small cube seemingly with a woman inside. And there’s an astounding piece of audience participation courtesy of Luis De Matos
Both halves end with a big big finish that wouldn’t look out of place in a David Copperfield extravaganza and should leave audiences well satisfied.
It needs a bit of work to give some continuity. But Impossible provides great entertainment pure and simple and who doesn’t want a bit of that? And with The Illusionists opening at the Shaftesbury Theatre on November 14 and the latest Derren Brown show Miracle arriving at the Palace Theatre a few days before on the 11th, it seems that live magic is back on the West End menu in a big way. Personally, I can’t wait.
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