Review: Magic Goes Wrong in a marvellously mirthful manner in Milton Keynes

'All manner of other 'magical' sequences take on a downward spiral in a sometimes hilarious fashion' (photo: Pamela Raith Photography)'All manner of other 'magical' sequences take on a downward spiral in a sometimes hilarious fashion' (photo: Pamela Raith Photography)
'All manner of other 'magical' sequences take on a downward spiral in a sometimes hilarious fashion' (photo: Pamela Raith Photography)

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Alan Wooding reviews Magic Goes Wrong at Milton Keynes Theatre

While some members of the Magic Circle may be left cringing at this type of performance, Mischief Theatre have created something of a masterpiece when it comes to live theatre with their latest offering.

On the back of The Show That Goes Wrong and Peter Pan Goes Wrong, this theatre company has again come up trumps with more family entertainment although not all the tricks and sketches are quite as funny, amazing or spectacular as I would have hoped.

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However Magic Goes Wrong does have some pretty special and crazy moments while there's also an added touch of pantomime thanks to sketches featuring magic provided by legendary American magicians Penn Jillette and Raymond Teller.

There are grand illusions and clever tricks as we tread the boards with a gang of hapless magicians whose magic spirals out of control and so often turns to mayhem and total confusion.

We see a woman fired from a cannon and another sawn in half while card tricks, mind reading and all manner of other 'magical' sequences take on a downward spiral in a sometimes hilarious fashion.

Unlike previous presentations from the talented Mischief Theatre players, this Goes Wrong show doesn't have quite the same slapstick appeal although when some members of the cast turn up in unexpected places, the audience are left totally baffled as to how they got there so sometimes the illusions and 'magic' actually does go right!

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There's no storyline of sorts as it's stage show held in aid of the fictional 'Magic Charity Fundraiser' featuring Sophisticato played by the brilliant Sam Hill. He inherits a magic wand from his late father and decides to use some of the magical props and equipment that he was never allowed to touch as a lad.

Along the way we meet The Blade (played by an accident-prone Kiefer Moriarty) who attempts several death-defying acts but clumsily gets impaled on knives and rat traps. Rory Fairbairn is the Mind Mangler who relishes plenty of audience participation while there's also the glittering Eugenia (Valerie Cutko) who comes to a sticky end. Added to that are a brace of comical magicians' assistants, namely German twins Spitzmaus (Jocelyn Prah) and Bär (Chloe Tannenbaum), who absolutely parody their part in the show along with Mickey (Daniel Anthony) who volunteers to help out on stage whenever he gets the opportunity.

Penn & Teller have been sawing the rulebook in half for generations and Magic Goes Wrong combines some of their bamboozling illusions and dark comedy skits and just when the magic seems to go horribly wrong, it somehow turns out right.

There's also a short cameo film appearance by top British illusionist Derren Brown who has donated his fee for this production to London's Great Ormond Street Hospital for Sick Children.

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It's certainly a rather complicated show but full marks to its director Adam Meggido and to its writers, costume designer, lighting engineer together with Will Bowen for his sparkling set design.

Parts of Magic Goes Wrong reminded me a little of the late great Tommy Cooper although you could also liken it to Marmite or the Curate's Egg – you either loved or hated the silliness or perhaps you just like parts of it. Or in the words of Paul Daniels, "You gonna like it, but not a lot!" I simply had to watch much as I did decades ago when viewing Monty Python's Flying Circus – I had to be in a silly frame of mind to actually enjoy it and that certainly applied to tonight's performance!

* Magic Goes Wrong plays Milton Keynes Theatre until Saturday October 23. Call 0844 871 7652 or visit to book.