Wonderville, the Palace theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue for a season. 3***. William Russell

At the Palace for a short season Wonderville is billed as a magic and illusion show which slightly overstates things – there is some magic, there is some illusion but none of it is particularly new. The man who works wonders producing red ping pong balls out of nowhere also makes doves appear and disappear, the lady contortionist contorts while producing playing cards from out of the air, a lady does amazing things with hoolahoops – who seems to have come from a totally different show – and a double act called Young and Strange do the illusions about sawing ladies in half, sticking swords through boxes containing someone, and claim Penn and Geller, the illusionists of Las Vegas, as their idols. The thing is that in Las Vegas you get show girls as well and real animals to scare the living daylights out of you. Here you get one show girl and the compere, a mind reader afflicted with excessive enthusiasm called Chris Cox, dressed up in a beast costume as the tiger in the tank. He cajoles and browbeats the audience into submission.
All the acts do their professional thing well enough but there is nothing to surprise. One does not quite know how the illusions are done, but one has half an idea and the sleight of hand is sleight of hand. Young and Strange are possibly the best thing in the show although Edward Hilsom, the man with the doves, is undeniably dextrous. It is all vey much so what or so so. Come back Paul Daniels all is forgiven. The lovely Debbie would have been a welcome surprise.
A live show back in the West End is not to be sneezed at but really this one belongs at the end of a pier rather than on Shaftesbury Avenue and nothing in it is as magical as the boomerang in Bagdad Cafe at the Old Vic. Now that really leaves the audience gasping.
Had Wonderville been at the end of the pier I would have pushed the mind reader off it and told him to swim but probably not have thrown in a life belt.
Compere – Chris Cox.
Josephine Lee.
Young & Strange
Edward Hilsum.
Louise Douglas.
Annalish Midolo.
Lee Prrrt
Mervin Noronha.
Magical Bones.
Harry De Cruz.
Emily England.
Kat Hudson.
Magic Singh.
Director: Annabel Mutale Reed.
Photograph: Paula Raith.

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