The Theatreguide.London Review
Albery Theatre Autumn 2005
The writer-performer team of Hamish McColl and Sean Foley are inspired physical and verbal clowns with the very unusual ability to send up a subject while still honouring it.
Theatregoers will remember their The Play What I Wrote of a couple of seasons back, a loving parody of the legendary comic team Morecambe and Wise.
This time they point their comedy at Las Vegas-style large-scale magic shows, with the same blend of ridicule and celebration.
McColl (the shorter, bug-eyed one) plays a down-at-his-heels magician trying to keep up the glitz and glamour while reduced to his last duck. Foley (the taller, balding one) is an audience member recruited as assistant, who almost takes over the act.
(An usherette and a few other audience plants also get involved, along with a strikingly talented duck.)
There's a lot of quite impressive magic, made all the more surprising because the guys pretend to be fouling it up as they're getting it right. I can promise you that a few tricks will catch you by surprise, so adept are the team at misdirection.
There's a lot of physical comedy - Foley, in particular, is a rubber-limbed clown - and a lot of terrible jokes of the groan-and-then-determine-to-remember-them sort.
There's one you should see coming a mile away about a plant in the audience, a confiscated hip flask which is replaced (of course) by a hip replacement flask, and reference to the mysterious Oriental named Sum Yung Guy.
And there's the duck. Famously, their original duck was ducknapped when foolishly left outside the stage door during previews, but I can report that the understudy duck has real star quality.
The show is so imbued with the style of McColl and Foley that it is hard to guess the contribution of director Kenneth Branagh, but even if all he did was shape and control their imaginations, he added a lot, because the pace of the show never lapses, nor does it tip over into self-indulgence.
The show is ideally timed for the holiday season coming up and, a very few very mild sexual jokes aside (a couple of the performers find themselves stripped down to comically obvious nude-effect body suits), this is an ideal family show, the kids enjoying the magic and slapstick while the adults can appreciate the skill, inventiveness and subtlety of the loving parody.
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