Impossible review: engaging and family-friendly

Jonathan Goodwin in Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre
Jonathan Goodwin in Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre – Photo Credit Helen Maybanks

Whether you are a regular or occasional visitor to the theatre, the chances are that at some point you will have witnessed the following. A curtain will have fallen, or otherwise the stage will become quite dark. Some music will play, and after no more than thirty seconds at the very most, the curtain rises again, the lights are bright once more, and the stage looks substantially different compared to a moment ago. That is, as you know, a scene change. For some reason, at Impossible, it’s classed as magic, and the audience is expected to be overawed by it. Well, I wasn’t. Applauding scene changes? Really? Perhaps that itself is remarkable enough to fall under the category of ‘impossible’.

The fourth wall was breached repeatedly, which led me to alternative conclusions. On one hand, the performers could do with some more stagehands to assist. Surely ‘the world’s greatest illusionists’ could do their thing without having to disturb the paying public, who have, after all, paid to see the people listed in the programme, rather than fellow theatregoers. On the other, it gives the acts a little more authenticity, particularly where a member of the audience has satisfied themselves that there are no hidden escape routes, that a water tank has water in it, that a large nail is indeed a pin-shaped metallic structure with a pointed end, that sort of thing.

The more sophisticated the act, the less impressive it ended up. Whenever a large cloth was held up to act as a sort of curtain, the audience can’t see what’s going on behind. Invariably then the to act as a sort of curtain, the audience can’t see what’s going on behind. Invariably then the impossible becomes possible, and, as I say, it’s no different to a scene change in a straight play. For instance, there’s a schoolboy with a toy helicopter. Cue curtain. Then the reveal: now the schoolboy is inside a life-sized helicopter. Puh-lease!

There was mathematical reasoning going on in the “order and chaos”, and if one studies hard enough, one can, eventually, figure out how most if not all of the acts are performed. This is not, however, a case of detective work by search engine. Jamie Allan, for instance, demonstrated a trick that apparently Harry Houdini struggled to decipher. The standards at Impossible are high, and more than one of these illusionists took the trouble to explain how some of the standard acts work, before taking them to another level (and sometimes another, and another). Therefore this production returns to magic entertainment by way of wonder of quite how the trick happened, rather than the showmanship of the magician. I should also point out that Katherine Mills is listed in the programme, but does not appear at all. Perhaps that was the greatest ode to Houdini of the whole evening.

Ali Cook in Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre
Ali Cook in Impossible at the Noel Coward Theatre Photo Credit Helen Maybanks

What I will call the ‘classical’ performances were the best – the card tricks, the playing around with handkerchiefs, the rope that is cut with scissors but can then be seamlessly reattached (the latter performed engagingly by Ben Hart). Most impressive of all for me were Chris Cox, billed as a mind reader, who did, to be fair, possess remarkable perception, and ‘grand illusionist’ Luis De Matos, who very skilfully had the entire audience participating in a card trick that took some minutes to reach a highly celebratory finish.

It is suitably engaging, and family-friendly, although I should imagine some ardent feminists will be disappointed at how little has changed with the passing of time. The men take the lead and the ladies must merely assist. Even I’ll admit that a thought crossed my mind at the interval: Why can’t a bloke be apparently cut in half for once? Still, it’s a good variety show, and even this cynic of magic has to admit that some tricks never get old.

4 Stars


Review by Chris Omaweng

IMPOSSIBLE, the biggest magic show in decades is set to thrill audiences in London’s West End this summer at the Noël Coward Theatre. The show will feature the very best magicians and tricksters from around the world, fusing dazzling grand stage illusions, up-close-and-personal magic, cutting-edge technological tricks and death-defying escapology in a fast-paced, breath-taking spectacular for every generation.

Celebrating its global premiere this July in London, where Harry Houdini and the superstars of illusion stunned Victorian audiences on stage, IMPOSSIBLE will re-establish the UK capital as the epicentre of innovation and spectacle, hosting the greatest magic show on Earth. Directed by Anthony Owen, the multi-award winning producer and magic consultant behind Channel 4’s Derren Brown, IMPOSSIBLE brings eight world-leading performers together live on-stage for the very first time. Featuring a stunning range of magical artistry, from astonishing acts of epic proportions to dumbfounding up-close sleight of hand, be ready to be mesmerized and baffled by these incredible illusionists.
Nothing is quite as it seems…

Noel Coward Theatre
Show Opened: 24th July 2015
Booking Until: 29th August 2015
Important Info:
Latecomers may not be permitted until a suitable break in the performance.
Evenings: Monday to Saturday 7.30pm
Matinees: Tuesday and Saturday 3.00pm

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