(Updated: Since first writing this, yet-another magic show has been announced for the West End. The Illusionists, featuring Britain’s Got Talent‘s Jamie Raven, has now been added below.) There are few things that excite me more at a party than when I meet someone who says they can do card tricks. I will move heaven and earth to find a playing deck and then trail that person around for the rest of the night. When an actual magician is booked to mingle and entertain, the only thing they can be certain of failing to escape that night is me. Meanwhile, the host of said magician-staffed party is catapulted to the top of my list of all-time great event organisers.
When it comes to casting their spell in the West End, however, in the time that I’ve been writing about theatre, magicians have been thin on the ground.
Derren Brown dominates the field. Since his first West End engagement with Something Wicked This Way Comes at the Cambridge Theatre in 2005, the TV star has transferred every one of his live shows to the West End, following extensive tours: Mind Reader – An Evening of Wonders (Garrick Theatre, 2008), Enigma (Adelphi Theatre, 2009), Svengali (Novello Theatre, 2012) and Infamous (Palace Theatre, 2013). Two of those – Something Wicked This Way Comes and Svengali – also won Olivier Awards for Best Entertainment.
With his latest, Miracle, Brown returns at the end of the year to the Palace Theatre, where amongst other unsettling acts, during one performance of the aptly named Infamous, an audience member fell over the balcony (his wife pushed him as a joke, luckily he was unhurt).
But this year, Derren Brown won’t be the only entertainer vying for the West End’s magic pound or, perhaps, for a Best Entertainment Olivier nomination.
Pickpocket James Freedman is currently mystifying audiences at Trafalgar Studios with his one-man show, Man of Steal, after stealing a quick transfer from the Menier Chocolate Factory.
Next up, ahead of Brown’s return, impresario Jamie Hendry – who has had repeated success with entertainment confections like Beatles tribute concert Let It Be, now at the Garrick Theatre enjoying its third West End engagement – has assembled no fewer than eight “world-leading” magicians and illusionists “live on-stage for the very first time, 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”. That’s for his new venture Impossible, which claims to be the biggest magic show in decades.
[Is it me, or does this sound like a stage remake of the 2013 Hollywood heist film Now You See Me, starring Jesse Eisenberg, Woody Harrelson and Isla Fisher as magician-thiefs? Just in case, you may want to leave big bank notes, credit cards and jewels at home…]
But, no no no, that’s not all, folks. The Old Vic, under new artistic director Matthew Warchus, is also promising variety nights on Sundays with a programme that will include magic, ‘whims and oddities’. And the London Palladium is also planning a major return to its variety roots from next year.
If all of these achieve box office success, that’ll be a very good trick indeed – and will, no doubt, lead to still more magic in the West End in future. In any case, I’m grateful for these current and upcoming, exciting appearances – for which, I’d say, we have Derren Brown to thank.
Caught on camera?