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  • Henry Longstaff

Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle - Apollo Theatre

Magical mischief returns to the West End

Shifters at the Bush Theatre
Photograhy - Pamela Raith


Adding to their marathon of booming productions Mischief Theatre have plucked the most successful character from their mildly underwhelming Magic Goes Wrong and have gifted him a stage all of his very own. The Mind Mangler promises to amaze, dazzle and deceive as he peers into our inner thoughts and unravels our deepest secrets through the sheer power of his mind, mind, mind… But with this of course being a Mischief production, the perfecters of the Goes Wrong franchise, it does not quite go to plan.

Henry Lewis has mastered the power stance as the Mind Mangler, standing firm and confident as he is introduced onto the stage, clutching onto any semblance of composure as his act is continually undermined through mishaps, tech blunders and rogue audience input. Classic tricks such as the torn and restored newspaper are present but there are bolder illusions at play that are genuinely impressive, nicely contrasting the bombastic silliness that dominates the evening. Lewis wields an intense charisma that makes him utterly believable as a mind reader, able to uncover audience members’ secrets purely from their body language. He lasers in on several semi-willing participants, their faces projected onto the stage for all to see, narrowing down his focus until he lands on said secret - 2013 X-Factor winner Sam Bailey was one of those chosen and all I’ll say is keep an eye on your club biscuits if you find yourself in her company!

Accompanying Lewis in the hijinks is Jonathan Sayer as ‘The Stooge’, appearing as several keen audience members who are definitely and I repeat not known to the Mind Mangler, his t-shirt stating that he is an ‘audience member’ utterly convincing. The pair’s chemistry is marvellous, a delightful glimpse into the comedic talent and flair the pair hold alongside fellow writer Henry Shields that has been poured into every single Goes Wrong production. The seemingly stripped-back nature of this show (in terms of cast and set) compared to their existing catalogue gives space for the pair to flourish and play without a safety net as they dabble in a format that is somewhat out of their control. For much of the play, the pair rely on their well-worn improv skillset upon which their theatre company was founded with audience members contributing suggestions and heckles which they handle with such ease, able to appease and navigate the periods with comedic brilliance.

The writing and direction ensure there is needed variety to the piece, just about avoiding the risk of repeating the same joke one too many times. The illusions differ in length with some of my favourites being the ‘Quick Fire Jesus’ segments where the Mind Mangler attempts feats that the holy spirit would have been proud of - walking on water, water to wine, loaves and fishes, you get the idea. There too are longer form routines, the show-stopping finale reveal encompassing all of the events we have witnessed is something to behold whereas others revert playfully into outright silliness. The script, like an accomplished stand-up routine, is littered with cheeky callbacks and reoccurring gags whether that be the fictional Jean on the teleprompter or a smidge of accidental hypnosis.

There is an undeniable sense that this project is a labour of love for its creative team, the obvious joy expelled from the stage utterly infectious as the cast, like the audience, aren’t quite sure where the evening is going to go. It is flavoured with the signature Mischief vibrancy and despite its more reserved design and scale the complexities occurring behind the scenes to ensure magic happens must be huge. Simply put, this production thrives in the desperate magnetism of Henry Lewis as he wills with all his might to bend the show into the shape he craves. Equally hilarious and surprising.

Running until 28th April in London. Touring until 16th June - Tickets

Photography - Pamela Raith

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