Let us liken Impossible, promising to be “the most dangerous show London has ever seen”, to a magician. There he is, fluttering his hands mysteriously over a hat before delving in deep and pulling out… a rabbit. Oh ho, yes very good we’ve seen that one before. In he goes again, to pull out… a flaming samurai sword?! OK, that’s pretty amazing. How did that work? Ooh wait he’s going in again and now he’s got… a different coloured rabbit. Oh.
Impossible is a mixed bag of tricks, ranging from the hammy and predictable, to the underwhelming, to the surprising and delightful. It’s perhaps no surprise considering six different magicians share the stage (supposed to be eight but Katherine Mills, the only female performer, has pulled out and Damien O’Brien performed an all-too-convincing disappearing act after the opening number), but the multi-name line up leads less to variety and more to confusion.
Stand out performers of the night are Luis de Matos, whose clever card-ripping trick involving the entire audience is full of humour and charm, and Chris Cox — the bumbling mind reader who, by his own admission, can’t read minds (but does a pretty good job of it nonetheless). Close-up magic by Ben Hart and digital illusions by Jamie Allan also go down well (the latter being more of a visual display than outright magic), but it’s telling the small scale ventures are the most successful.
A car suddenly arriving on stage out of nowhere is clearly meant to blow us all over but we stay resolutely upright. A husband shooting a bow and arrow at a balloon above his wife’s head has us squirming for all the wrong reasons. Swords going through a box with a woman curled up inside fail to impress. There is a whole bunch of machismo and posturing, with few attempts at imagination. The tricks have been seen before, it’s all very serious, and just not that fun.
Undoubtedly there are some “how did they do that?” moments, but the lack of cohesion between the acts (there’s a weak attempt at narrative via a young boy discovering magic for the first time, which doesn’t really work) makes for a disjointed evening. Thank goodness then for de Matos and Cox, who are both singularly likeable and feel like the only two who really take the time to get the audience on board.
Impossible is at Noel Coward Theatre, St Martin’s Lane, WC2N 4AU until 29 August 2015. Tickets start from £22.25 and can be booked online. Londonist saw this show on a complimentary review ticket.