The Great Illusionist

Part of the attraction of seeing magic tricks performed well – beyond the sheer spectacle – is trying to work out how they’re done. So The Great Illusionist, from Dutch company Het Filial theatermakers, initially draws us in by allegedly showing us “behind the scenes” of a magic show, albeit it with the unexpected sight of a magician’s white rabbit sitting on a dressing room table, carefully completing its make-up. It’s a puppet, of course, clearly operated – Avenue Q style – by cast member Ramses Graus; but then, isn’t turning a cloth puppet into what appears to be the show’s living, breathing fourth performer the greatest theatrical magic trick of them all?

Darkly humorous, Het Filiaal’s production is an engaging, entertaining and never-ostentatious production which nevertheless offers moments of eerie ambiguity.

The Great Illusionist, however, is not the white rabbit; it’s the stage name applied to a magician who, from when he was a little boy, we’re told wanted to learn the trick of disappearing. Ironically enough, in order to achieve this, he has to spend his life learning the craft of magic and eventually becomes the world’s most famous magician – wowing audiences from London to Las Vegas with all the showbiz glitter and acumen he can muster. His story is delivered by Graus, director Monique Corver and musican/composer Gábor Tarján through a mixture of music, songs and magic tricks – some primarily there as a spectacle in their own right (with, in one case, effective lighting to recreate the look of early cinema), others just simple small parlour tricks used as an inventive narrative tool to help tell the story of the little boy who wanted to disappear.

Darkly humorous, Het Filiaal’s production is an engaging, entertaining and never-ostentatious production which nevertheless offers moments of eerie ambiguity. Perhaps most impressively, though, while the show makes some effort to remind us that stage magic is all about psychology and “brain science”, it also reminds us all that – despite us wanting to know how the tricks are done – at some level we also want to be deceived, so that we can still believe in the magic.

Reviews by Paul F Cockburn

Multiple Venues

Nests

★★★
Dundee Rep Theatre / Macrobert Arts Centre

The Yellow on the Broom

★★★
Underbelly, Bristo Square

Tom Neenan: It's Always Infinity

★★★★
Assembly George Square Studios

Police Cops in Space

★★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Rik Carranza: Still a Fan

★★★★
Gilded Balloon Rose Theatre

Marmite

★★★★

Performances

Location

The Blurb

A spellbinding story of a young boy's dream to make it big in the world of magic; a tale of daring and willpower, the importance of a good assistant, and of course a white rabbit! Beautifully acted, orchestrated and extremely funny. Age: 8+