Wonderville, 57 Haymarket, London SW1Y to 30 October 2022. 3***. William Russell.

Wonderville, the illusionist variety show which ran at the Palace last year is now installed in what was once Planet Hollywood in redesigned premises all shabby chic as a cabaret evening of illusion, variety turns and smut aimed at the cocktail crowd. If you like that sort of thing then you will have a happy night out although the venue layout does make it rather hard to see the acts of those who do tricks over the solid bodies of the people at the tables in front. The opening night comperes were an accordion playing gent called Desmond O’Connor and a female drag queen called Chastity Belt, God’s gift to the sequin industry as her gowns, which she changed a lot, seemed to consist of nothing else and were very large. She also sang very loudly and was adept at chatting the hapless up.

The assorted  illusionists were fine – playing cards got guessed, girls – why is it always girls? – were imprisoned in boxes which were then pierced with rods or swords,  other girls played with hoola hoops, bottles of wine appeared from nowhere. wine was poured into glasses only for it to turn into handkerchiefs and swords got swallowed. There was a lady who did gymnastics while suspended by her hair from a cable that descended from the ceiling and a delightful and funny lady hoola hoop performer called Ritzi Crackers who sat on my lap but fortunately did not invite me on stage to toss them in her direction. That went to a drama teacher called Mark at the table next door.The acts were impressive in their own right but the evening lacked a top of the bill turn – somebody you waited to see – and they will vary from night to night being selected from a list of fifty it seems.

 The best illusions came from Fay Presto who did not go on stage but worked the room doing amazing things before your very eyes with sheets of tissue paper which were set alight but remained unscorched and coins borrowed from the punters  put into bottles which did not have had a neck wide enough to admit them, while  liquid flowed from folded up bank  notes which could not possibly have been filled with anything.

As an evening out for the under thirties who enjoy a cocktail or three and a good laugh it does what it says on the label. As cabaret it is not exactly sophisticated stuff but no matter. Those who enjoyed it had a whale of a time.

Director: Laura Corcoran.

Venue Designer: Justin Williams.

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