THE VANISHING MAN
at the Cramphorn Theatre
“An experiment in magic” is how it's billed. There is magic and mirth, pathos and philosophy in this touring two-hander by Simon Evans and David Aula.
There's a cast of thirty or so, since the punters are pressed into service to impersonate audience members from earlier incarnations of the show, in Swindon, Watford, Brighton and Battersea. It all works rather well; we, the self-deceiving audience, learn about Robert-Houdin's nine modes of magic, about forced decks, the Zorbinger table pass and the Neasden underpass. And of course about the mysterious life and disappearance of Hugo Cedar, the vanishing man of the title. Or should that be S.E. - D.A. ?
Fascinating to watch magic being deconstructed by these two skilful and charismatic performers. There's popular philosophy in there, too, and spiritualism, a back story to tug at the heart-strings, real candles and an electric piano. Not just a magic show, not just a play, certainly not history, but an engaging blend of fact, fable and fabrication.
A word of caution. When The Guardian saw the show last year, they reckoned 80 minutes. It's advertised now as 90, but actually ran over a hundred, without a break. Check the comfort of the seats, guys, before you extend it any further – you don't want people like those two in the front row walking out before your candle-snuffing climax ...