Linking Rings

In Linking Rings Paul Zenon interweaves the stories of two Collinses, both of the storyteller himself, Paul Collins (Zenon is a stage name) and of Jim Collins, Houdini's go-to man. Although set many decades apart, Zenon finds a poignant synchronicity between these two histories, these lives filled with performing magic and forging connections between mentors and friends.

The use of the projector itself, however, is one aspect of what makes this show so compelling. Zenon expertly weaves music, the incense, performed magic, and the projection to add depth to the storyline.

The stories wander through various location as the lives in them progress, but the set is well suited and impressively versatile for the entire range of them. It is constructed of a few trunks, a straitjacket on display at the back, and adorned with various magic props, creating for the audience an appropriate ambiance for the magic shop Zenon frequented in his youth.

It is with just these items, a projector, and some incense that Zenon tells his and the other Collins's stories. Zenon recounts his childhood enthusiasm for finding a magic shop in Blackpool, and how he grew up working there and being mentored by the shopkeeper. It was in this time that his love for magic was fostered, leading to his interest in magicians before him, like Jim Collins. Zenon describes his search to understand the man behind a good deal of Houdini's greatest illusions.

Although Zenon is an adept storyteller, Linking Rings veers into being dangerously niche, lingering on memories only he could have nostalgia for. At one point, he spends at least a solid minute listing joke items in a shop. The length of this list is played for laughs, but then just keeps going past the point of being funny. Another time, despite having a technician, Zenon crouches in the aisle to work a projector with images for Jim Collins. This makes for an immersive story when done in brief, but extends to be a labored history lesson if your interests are not quite so specific.

The use of the projector itself, however, is one aspect of what makes this show so compelling. Zenon expertly weaves music, the incense, performed magic, and the projection to add depth to the storyline. He also shows impressive deftness in transforming himself into Jim Collins for a few lines, with only the use of a hat and waistcoat.

Zenon's affable nature shines through this honest and charming show. Although spectators who are not magic history aficionados may find themselves daunted by the specificity of parts of Linking Rings, his artful storytelling and confident stage presence should make the experience enjoyable nonetheless.

Reviews by Ali Schultz

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

1926: Houdini's right-hand man deals with the death of his boss. A half century later, a Blackpool joke shop proprietor takes on a wide-eyed young protégé. An affectionate look at a misspent youth and unsung heroes; a touching true story of interlocking lives. This new work is an exciting change of direction for Paul Zenon, who has made regular appearances everywhere from Countdown to La Clique and is known as the UK pioneer of Street Magic. Compelling storytelling from 'a contemporary master of his art' (Times). Not a magic show, but magical nonetheless.