West End review: Unbelievable, an immersive comedy show with a sprinkle of magic

Unbelievable, currently gracing the stage at West End’s Criterion Theatre, is a departure from traditional magic shows, offering a delightful blend of comedy and audience engagement. It’s akin to a lively holiday resort evening entertain, where the audience becomes an active part of the entertainment. While the immersive experience is thoroughly enjoyable, it’s important to note that Unbelievable leans more towards comedy than classic magic, creating a unique and immersive theatrical experience.

Unbelievable show west end London Mums magazine collage

The versatile and talented cast adds depth to the performance. Not only do they excel in acting and singing, but they also display proficiency in playing various musical instruments, and even incorporate a few simple magic tricks into the show. The audience is treated to a behind-the-scenes glimpse as the cast explains some of the tricks, a fun segment that involves a lucky spectator witnessing the magic up close.

While Unbelievable offers some fun, it falls slightly short of the artistic mastery associated with the genre. Derren Brown’s direction is evident, yet the show lacks the danger often characteristic of his work. The title, “Unbelievable,” raises an interesting point about the nature of magic itself, as belief and suspension of disbelief are crucial components of the magic experience. The performers skilfully navigate this delicate balance, ensuring that the audience is captivated by the wonderment of the illusions.

The unconventional approach of featuring actors instead of professional magicians on stage yields both positive and negative results. On the plus side, it reinforces Derren Brown’s message that we all play roles in our interactions with others. However, it may also dilute the element of danger and unpredictability that skilled magicians often bring to their performances.

The cast, including Simon Lipkin (who played the main character in Elf last Christmas) and Samuel Creasey, deliver commendable performances, blurring the lines between magic and theatre. Hannah Price, a multi-talented “musical telepath” and ring illusionist, as well as Yolande Ovide stand out for their intimate illusions as a highlight, showcasing elegance and finesse. The ensemble cast, donned in light grey suits designed by Hayley Grindle, exudes a charismatic presence on stage.

As the show progresses, it becomes evident that the advent of the internet has transformed the magic landscape, making once-elusive tricks accessible with a simple click. This is particularly evident in the rendition of the classic “Cups and Balls” routine, which, while entertaining, lacks the finesse of a seasoned magician’s execution.

Unbelievable succeeds in its comedic objective, leaving the audience with a smile on their faces. However, it’s important to approach it as a comic performance with sprinkles of magic, rather than a traditional magic show. Those seeking the edge of mystique and danger may find themselves longing for the seasoned touch of a magician like Derren Brown himself. Remember to book with the expectation of a comedic performance, and you’re in for an unforgettable evening at the West End’s Criterion Theatre.

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