Simon Lipkin leads a fun gang of actor/musicans taking on the world of magic in Unbelievable at the Criterion Theatre
“Everyone you meet is performing a kind of magic trick”
Derren Brown may be presenting, and directing, and co-writing new magic show Unbelievable – co-produced with the Mercury Theatre, Colchester where it premiered in August – but he ain’t actually in it! Rather, a company of seven actor-musicians – Alexander Bean, Samuel Creasey, Laura Andresen Guimarães, Simon Lipkin, Hannah Price, Izalni Batista Nascimento Junior, Yolanda Ovide – have added illusion, sleight of hand and mind reading to their special skills as they attempt to reimagine what a magic show can do.
Unbelievable is at its strongest in its opening vignette. Cleaving closest to their mission statement of wanting to show us the gap between the effect and method, a magic cabinet trick is cleverly dissected as we get to see what happens both sides of the curtain and the warmly inclusive ethos of the ensemble shines through the chirpy company work led by Lipkin’s hugely likeable charisma.
What follows ends up being a touch more conventional – a ring trick, a drink trick, a cup trick, balloons, pianos and rainbow cubes, all delivered rather than deconstructed. There’s moments of real visual power – a group sleight of hand routine is all sorts of kinetic fun and the quiet grace of the floating balloon offers nice contrast. A tip of the hat to the largely undersung work of magicians’ assistants across the years is also neatly done.
A little less effective is the opening out of other tricks to include audience participation. It is one thing to gasp in collective wonder (which we did do several times); it is another to sit through people experiencing their own interactions, of which there is a fair amount and which lets the pace sag a little. But doubtless it is lots of fun if you’re bold enough to get involved and honestly, don’t book the front row if you don’t want to get picked on!
Taken as a whole though, the show does work well as agreeable entertainment and situates itself well as a potential festive family treat. More seasoned magic fans might ask or expect for more but for me, Unbelievable does the trick.