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Bring a Little Magic to the West End, Please.

June 29, 2011

For the overseas reader who visits this blog (either to read it, or send me emails telling me they can improve both our lives if they link to my ‘highly relevant’ story on their boot and shoe website) the following won’t mean much. For quite a lot of UKreaders, it also won’t – difference is, the UKcohort can do something about it.

I’m talking about “Fool Us,” the one hour Saturday Night TV programme on ITV1 at 8pm. The original 90 minute pilot had me glued to the screen (accident as I repaired the remote control, hot water sorted it) and I was delighted a couple of weeks ago to find it was commissioned as a series.

For those who’ve not seen it… DO. It’s a simple concept: magicians of all types – card tricks to escapologists – perform a short routine in front of the famous magic duo Penn and Teller. If Penn and Teller can’t figure out how the illusion was done, the performer gets a chance to do their act during Penn and Teller’s ownLas Vegas show. A ‘mystery adjudicator’ double checks the action, and Jonathan Ross (sensibly sans phone to any geriatric actor, and with a cleaner mouth than usual) hilariously links the action as compere.

Now, the chances of me visiting Las Vegas during Penn and Teller’s run are pretty remote. Not only can’t I perform an illusion that will baffle them – my limit is the “removing thumb trick” – but I don’t really have the funds.. anyway… The pair have performed in the UK very recently, selling out the Apollo Hammersmith in record time… and my thought is, “why can’t we have them, and other great magic back in the West End?”

Derren Brown at the Shaftesbury is pretty much sold out now for the whole of his month’s run, proving there is an audience for TV appearing magicians. My own old favourite Paul Daniels still tours the country regularly (less magic, more chat now, though) and again effortlessly sold out a short run at the Udderbelly Festival on the South Bank recently. Sure, last time Mr Daniels played the West End (the early 1990s) the theatre burned down just after he left, but it was no criticism of his act, just bad timing. He’d also previously sold out the Prince Of Wales Theatre for more than a year in the 1980s, returning several times thereafter, again to decent ticket sales each time.

Now, I’m not saying bring back the “Magic Castle” experiment – a venue dedicated to magic at the Cambridge Theatre (what a disaster that was!). I’m just asking that this totally entertaining art is given more exposure on the stage. If “X Factor” and “Britain’s Got Talent” can have stage versions (and let’s face it, the lot of ‘Fool Us’ are well up to – if not way beyond – that standard of professional quality), then why not do it for the magicians… please!



Now, just to end on a short plea. A graduate student at King’s College London, currently doing a Master in Cultural and Creative Industries emailed the website the other day to say that they were writing a dissertation about the influence of criticism over theatre audiences.

As part of the research they are conducting questionnaires to members of theatre audiences in London, both at the door of theatre venues and through an online survey device. They asked if I could kindly host a link to the online one in my blog. So here is the link: It’s a very short survey – 3 minutes at the most, so do try helping. Also, do note that the hosting website and survey are nothing to do with – the site just has a similar simian name.

  1. Heather permalink
    July 21, 2011 2:51 pm

    I’d like to think that the magic still exists in the West End, especially in the theatre world. Take Wicked the Musical for example – not only does it offer an original take on a classic tale, it’s brilliantly acted, the songs are belted out to perfection and the costumes are a delight to behold. So when shows like this come to town, I start to feel better about the world.

    • Steve Rich permalink*
      July 23, 2011 1:47 pm

      The posting was rather about the bringing of actual magic shows, by magicians, into London. It is a good point that a show that can transport the imagination can be considered ‘magic’ of course.

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