Thursday, 2 February 2023

REVIEW: An Evening of Magic at The Mill at Sonning

The Mill at Sonning has a very full programme of other events around its regular play season with tribute bands, comics and magic attracting audiences on Sunday and Monday nights throughout the year. It clearly works for on a dark January Monday night the car park, restaurant and theatre was packed by 6.30 pm for An Evening of Magic. The three acts and host perform on the main stage in the set of We’ll always have Paris and the round thrust stage is hardly perfect for close up and slight of hand magic with around a third of the audience viewing side on as the artists played mainly to those in the middle of the rows. Of course, if you like an extra clue as to how the trick is done the side on view as they dip their hands in their pockets or pick up a prop helps, and the evening demonstrates that magic is 25% about the trick and 75% about the presentation and banter around it.

Dan Hudson, a local magician, hosts the show and warms the audience well with his natural style and chatty engagement as he fills two empty seats in the front row with two people who booked late and are sat at the side walls. He performs a few tricks with cards and then predicting how an audience member will colour in a picture of a Nike spirts trainer. His comedy banter and style sells the tricks well and get the show off to a good start before he settles in the aisle to watch each act he introduces.

Next up is Darren Delaney who again has a natural ease with the audience and does the classic three pieces of rope trick with an added twist of a metal ring and then some clever manipulation with the seventies puzzle the Rubik’s cube which has 43 Quintillion permutations by turning the sides! However, his main event is a feat of memory as he fills a 4x4 grid with random words and then recalls a number for each cell so that whichever way the cells are added the total is the same as another random number called out by an audience member. It is an impressive feat even if the final number he calls is 2 out!

Then after the interval the veteran Fay Presto, a member of The Inner Magic Circle performs a number of tricks although rather disconcertingly keeps telling us it worked in the rehearsal making the audience unsure whether some problem had occurred. The classic two metal rings trick gets an added element with the microphone lead and card and milk trick is quaintly added to by being performed by a puppet rabbit in a hat. There is a rambling set up involved in a card trick as various packs are examined for the required card before she digs herself out of the hole with a spade before some good business with the audiences involving Haribo’s, a kit kat and a £20 note. 

Finally, John Archer brings his unique brand of comedy magic and ukulele ditty’s to the stage to close the show. The tricks appear simple but are executed beautifully reacting and adlibbing to the audience with great timing and a little bit edgy which adds to the laughs. A pack of cards is tossed around the audience in an elastic band so that three cards are selected by different audience members before he guesses them with the presentation being excellent even if the trick seems simple. Equally he handles the talkative gambler he invites on stage for a lesson on Las Vegas gambling with great skill that is highly entertaining in its presentation before closing with a seemingly impossible guessing of the name of a random street picked from an old travel guide by another audience member. His art is presenting this simple looking tricks with a great comic repartee and clever handling of the audience members to provide the show highlight of the evening.

This is a fun evening of classic comedy magic with no attempt at grand illusion or mind blowing deception but the full house clearly enjoyed the experience and no doubt many will return for the follow up shows on 19th June and 9thOctober. Perhaps it shows it is time for more magic to return to the small screen as it did in the great days of David Nixon (1970-71), Paul Daniels (1979-1994), or Thames TV’s Best of Magic (1989-1990) and Magic Comedy strip (1991-1992) to add to the spectacle of Penn and Teller (2011 to 2021).

Review by Nick Wayne 

Rating: ★★★

Seat: Row F | Price of Ticket: £46.50

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