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Magic Goes Wrong

Apollo Theatre, Shaftesbury Avenue

Shaftesbury Avenue, London W1V 7HD 0330 333 4809

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  • Synopsis
  • Theatremonkey show opinion
  • Reader reviews
  • Performance schedule
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From 21st October 2021.

A charity magic show, Mischief Theatre, what could go right?

Penn and Teller assist on a new script from the famous comedy team. Please note that unless something goes wrong, Penn and Teller will NOT appear in this production.

(seen at the afternoon performance on 12th January 2020 at the Vaudeville Theatre)

This was always going to be a tough one for the monkey. A life-long, die-hard Penn & Teller fan, who has seen masses of their output over the years and rates them simply the best.

Then there’s Mischief Theatre, who created two of the best slapstick comedies it has ever seen in the West End. This then, has the anticipation of a royal UK / USA marriage – just who would lead, and will independence be sought further down the line? Yes, the monkey can do topical humour with the worst of them.

What we get is a charity magic show in which the cast make Sooty look like Paul Daniels. The tricks (one almost in its entirety), are almost all straight out of the P&T warehouse. Weaving it together is a Lewis / Sayer / Shields and P&T script, mostly repeating everything Mischief do so well. Sight, physical and verbal jokes flow even as the magic segments become ever more desperate and painful for their exponents.

It’s an uneven evening in the end. The absolute highlight is a very beautiful dove routine by Sohisticato (Henry Shields). Returning Mischief to their roots, it should remind them just how their success came about. The beauty of their first two plays was that they wrote them and were delighted at subsequent laughter. Since then, there has been more emphasis instead on trying to “write funny things.” Shields playing straight and with sincerity is the secret, and hopefully they will remember and return to it more often.

Henry Lewis's improvisation also scores, particularly in the second – tighter – half of the show as “Mind Mangler.” A victim of both foil Brian (Jonathan Sayer on Ferris Bueller form) and the British audience who – at this performance, and probably all of them – take an “I’m Spartacus” attitude to him.

Given too much stage time only because they are under-used, Spitzmaus (Bryony Corrigan) and Nancy Zamit (Bar) generate the laughs they can with their thin material. Vital to the plot, but not really given enough to do. Still, Zamit’s cones alone are comedy gold, and that isn't a euphemism.

Also worth mention are David Hearn’s imploding “The Blade,” straight out of any West End magic show of the last few years and lending most of the danger to proceedings; likewise Roxy Faridany’s slimly written Eugenia does well opening the show and moving the story along. Finally, do arrive early, as you won’t want to miss Natasha Culley’s quest.

Even if it does echo previous “Goes Wrong” outings a little too frequently, much of the craft remains, and shows certain signs of a new maturity in construction.

For the moment, it’s 3 (and a half ) bananas from the monkey, and it suspects as things are edited during this run, there’s a 4 banana show here come May. If they survive 8 shows a week, that is...

Legacy reader reviews

I won’t say more other than it’s Mischief’s familiar something goes wrong routine with some actual magic thrown in.  I didn’t think it was as strong as ‘Peter Pan Goes Wrong’ but maybe their whole ‘goes wrong’ act is starting to feel a bit predictable when you’ve seen their other productions.  There were quite a lot of laughs, and the interaction with audience members was often funny and felt improvised but I couldn’t help feeling that much of it was a set up with audience members ‘planted’ for the purpose.  Having said that, there are worse ways to spend a December afternoon.

Stalls row D seats 3 and 4. An excellent view of the whole stage and excellent legroom. Very happy with these! That’s another theatre crossed of the list, I thought the Vaudeville was lovely.

We saw this last week, (February 2020), I think I had very high expectations following the 'Play That Goes Wrong' and the 'Bank Robbery'....

Sadly, although the show is very clever,  I found it a little lacking in laughs (for me) and the only saving aspect was The Mind Mangler! I thought he was hilarious, very good at ad lib and he really carried the show for me. 

We were seated in the upper circle, rather tight on leg room, but bearable for just £30 a ticket. We had very good views of the whole stage.

The show is cleverly presented and the magic that does to go right is great, mainly at the end! The company have produced some brilliant shows, very original and, despite my personal opinion, I think this show is still worth seeing. Best not to have any prejudgement because of the other productions. It stands alone and, for me, was just a little wobbly.

Show review:

As a big fan of the late, great Tommy Cooper (I had the pleasure of meeting him in a pub; a giant of a man, carrying a huge tray with around 20 drinks over his head, swerving through the crowd like a ballerina before depositing it with that trademark laugh), one of the originators of an act of magic seemingly going wrong, and a big fan of everything Mischief Theatre has put out so far, this show was either going to be fantastic or a disaster.

I’m glad to say it fell (mostly) in the first category.

Like all Mischief shows, get there early.  There are things going on around the theatre that will become part of and inform the show later on.  You can see the show without them, but they just add a little something and are fun to look out for.

The show?  It’s a magical cabaret with magician, escapologists, mind-reader and the inevitable ‘danger’ act, whose talent reflects the limited budget.  The magic is designed in collaboration with Penn & Teller - another act that has perfected the “Is it going wrong?” setup - and I understand draws largely on their own back catalogue.

The highlight for me is the “Mind Mangler” a low-talent Derren Brown (watch out for his cameo) ad-libbed joyfully by Henry Lewis.  At one stage I couldn’t draw breath as I was laughing so hard.

But the other acts are fun. Magician Sophisticato (who has inherited his Dad’s act) performs a Dove act that is essentially beautifully carried off, with one major flaw (this was one of the reasons for getting there early, a little set-up that pays off so well).  Escapologists Madame Escapade and Peg (I understand them to be the 4th best mother and daughter escape act… in Hitchin) do well with thin material (though their act is essential in setting up the final payoff).  And then there is ‘The Blade’ - a Jonathan Goodwin ‘danger’ act, who makes the (fatal?  You’ll have to see) flaw of upsetting his assistant at the start of the show, with disastrous consequences.

The final payoff?  Satisfying and clever, all the more effective for the effortless drop-in.  The final trick? I won’t say too much, but assistant Mel (Scott Hunter) tries throughout the show to perform his one trick. By the end, the audience wants him to do it SO much (well set up, Mischief) and he rewards with a sublime, beautiful little piece of magic.

Yes, the material is uneven at times.  But there were moments when I struggled to breathe from laughing so hard.  And Mischief has remembered to drop in those little asides that shine - the “traffic cones” gag is worth the cost of admission and my wife Laura was still giggling about it days later - plus knowing when to play it straight mixed in with slapstick.

Seat review: Stalls, Seats P13 and 14

Nicely central, the Apollo has a decent enough rake that means you should be able to see over all but the tallest.  Decently comfortable (barely a fidget) with good legroom and close enough to the stage to pick up finer detail but far enough back to see everything easily these are well worth the money.

Bob Pickett.

My wife and I went to see 'Magic Goes Wrong' on Thursday 25 November 2021 at 19:30, sitting in stalls seats P13 and 14.  There are a couple of factual things to note.  

Firstly, none of the stalls seats appear to be offset; we were certainly directly behind the people in the rows in front of us. This suggests that perhaps seats towards the side of the theatre, where you could be looking slightly to the left or right of the person in front, might offer a better view.  

I am over 6 feet tall and had the head of the person in front of me obstructing my view.  That said, the view to the back of the stage was good.  Secondly, there is no central aisle as suggested in “Choosing seats in general”.  It appears that while two seats in the centre of each row are set-up to be removed, they are in place for the present production.  On a more subjective note, I don’t think the rake in the stalls is particularly good when compared to similar theatres. Leg room was good for me.

At £25.00 each the seats were probably reasonable but I would have been much less happy had we paid more.

The comments about row T certainly appear to be valid.  People moving in front of you during the performance seems a small price to pay for a potentially much improved view, although I can’t comment on the possible loss of view due to the overhanging dress circle.

Stalls G 6, 7, 8. Premium seats acquired for a bargain price (thanks TodayTix!). No issues with the rake and these are fairly central so we had a great view. As the stalls are just one solid block it does feel a bit claustrophobic as there’s not too much leg room  and seats seem quite tight. SPOILER ALERT. A note on the show itself - I didn’t realise there was some audience participation and I was grateful to be just far enough back to be out of the firing line. However, you may want to avoid the first four rows rather than risk the anxiety of being selected as a participant! SPOILER ENDS. Very funny show though, we were lucky to see Henry Lewis as The Mind Mangler - an absolute master of his art.” 


The monkey advises checking performance times on your tickets and that performances are happening as scheduled, before travelling.

Tuesday to Friday at 7.30pm
Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm
Sunday at 3pm and 7pm

Runs 2 hours 30 minutes approximately.

Theatres use "dynamic pricing." Seat prices change according to demand for a particular performance. Prices below were compiled as booking originally opened. Current prices are advised at time of enquiry.

Apollo Theatre Shaftesbury Avenue prices seating plan

200 seats - in various locations throughout the theatre - are bookable in advance for all Tuesday Evening performances, priced at £20 each at the usual theatre website

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