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will Someone make Houdini disappear

HEADLINES are not my job. I write the review, someone else tops it off. But I did have a couple of suggestions prepared by the time Houdini's first half came to a close. 'The not-so-great escape', 'Houdini goes overboard ... again'. Yes, they require some fine-tuning, but Houdini needs a minor miracle if it's to survive.

Alas, all the help in the world couldn't fix a play that starts off as an atrocious pantomime and concludes with a scene that involves soaking its audience with foam.

According to director Peter Snee, it was five years in the making. What a waste. A cut-and-paste job about the life of the Hungarian-American illusionist and escape artist, Harry Houdini, it succeeds in reminding us that the man had a brother named Theo. It fails at everything else. Some of the actors think they're dealing with Shakespeare (there are lots of grand hand gestures), others don't even try. It's not their fault. The script is limp, humourless and void of any real substance.

half-baked

The punch that ended Houdini's life might have made a decent scene, but instead, Snee literally slows everything down for it. Just like the movies. The ones we tend to forget.

Stuart Brennan plays Theo, the eejit who stepped aside to let his brother shine. And in an attempt to show us the effects of the ageing process (Houdini jumps forward a few years after the interval), Brennan gives us two versions of his character. One of them involves a half-baked De Niro impression.

Meanwhile, Jamie Nichols' Harry wears a grey wig and throws a few tantrums.

Full marks to an unintentionally hilarious Evanna Lynch as Harry's wife, Bess, who seems to think she's still in the school hall. Seriously, people actually left at half-time.

A voiceover asked that no one attempt any of the stunts featured. We wouldn't want to. The metamorphosis illusion has been done to death, and the Chinese Water Torture Cell is so far up-stage, it might as well be outside the theatre.

What's more, the flimsy set is appalling, the extras look lost and the leading actors appear frustrated and embarrassed. That little breakdown that Houdini has when – hold it! 'Torturous display lacks magic punch.' I knew I had another one in me ...

1 STAR


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