The Fabulous Magic of Dr Bondini
The Pavilion Theatre, Worthing
Sunday August 21st
Reviewed by Nick Ralls


What chance does a member of the public have of seeing a spectacular and traditional magic show? On television practically zero. In the theatre? Well, perhaps almost as difficult. But thank heavens for those few, very few, magicians who still tread the boards of our theatres, inviting people of all ages to be transported into a world of magic and mystery.

One of these is Doctor Bondini, or his alias Philip Malcolm Bond, who is a gift for all those who relish the rare chance to see the magical wonders that might have all but vanished from mainstream theatre. Doctor Bondini generally tours the smaller venues but on Sunday August 21st he mystified and delighted in equal measures an audience at Worthing’s Pavilion Theatre.

True the audience could have been bigger but the show was a big and colourful one, capturing the glamour and, indeed, the mystery of the great age of Victorian and Edwardian magicians. Doctor Bondini, with a twinkle in his eye and bedazzling smile on his face, brings to modern theatre that almost forgotten art of variety showmanship. As soon as the curtain goes up, you are joining Bondini on a magical journey that will take you to such exotic places as China, Egypt and India and you will not lose sight of the joy in entertaining tomorrow’s magic fans – the children.

What a relief for adults in Bondini’s audience that the only volunteers on stage are children who have been pre selected from the audience before the show. They will join him as he enthrals his captive audience of all ages in the mystery of the Chinese linking rings, the colour changing wands, changing silks and that “most dangerous of all magic feats” – the card trick!

Here you will see much of the good traditional family entertainment with a mix of comedy and superb audience participation. That is the magic of Bondini. Here is a showman, and very competent magician, mastering stagecraft and the ability not to lose an audience through a colourful and truly magical two hour show. I can honestly say my mind never wandered… except to marvel in the wonders on display.

As Bondini’s lavish show flows from scene to scene and from location to location we see original and slick presentations of fire, dove, silk, flower and children’s magic. And there are the grand illusions too – the Indian sword basket, levitation, sawing the lady in half, sword through cabinet, zig zag and appearances and disappearances. With fabulous scenery, an assortment of special effects, immaculate choreography and fine costume, the show is a delight to behold.

Bondini’s skill is in his strong and very colourful theatrical presentation and his skilful use of drama, mixed with gentle self effacing comedy, as he brandishes swords, impales snakes and changes water to fire to name but a few of the effects. You cannot fail to be mesmerised by the mystery and the beauty of his show.

His rendition of the floating golden orb has to be seen to be believed – something really spectacular thanks to Bondini’s graceful movement and confident handling. The mythical stories he imparts with a clear and fine eloquence – such as the continuing epic of the Chinese emperor who is also a magician – are fluent, captivating and add a unique flavour to a fine evening’s entertainment. A true trip to the mystical! Bondini is joined by young ladies of mystery who supply eye catching dance routines as well as prove able magician’s assistants for the illusions to be performed. Again, the theatrical pull of his scenes lack nothing.

Writing in the programme, Bondini says he wants to rekindle the childhood dreams which linger in all of us and to restore the art of magic to its rightful place of importance in the performing arts.

I am reminded here by words from Terry Seabrooke that sum up the frustration of many within the magic fraternity. “My main complaint is: when are we going to get a proper magic show on television? Not some fellow on the street doing card tricks, or scruffy people doing party tricks or, even worse, some other guy exposing our craft - all amateurs and those who cannot afford a good suit! I mean a real show with a variety of acts from comedy to manipulation. I think there's a whole generation of kids now that haven't even seen a proper magic stage show!”

Now with Bondini there is that chance to see a proper magic show that Terry Seabrooke yearns for. May Bondini be very successful. May he be successful in not only drawing in the crowds, but also in encouraging other magicians to follow his lead. We can only hope more and more people will latch on to the fact that his lavish magic show is touring Britain and take that rare opportunity to catch a full scale variety show that captures all the glamour and glitz of the days of the old music hall – and demonstrates superbly presented magical art.

Bondini’s new show Merlin’s Secret is about to tour in the Autumn and it is more than likely to be as good as the Fabulous Magic of Dr Bondini. Make sure you catch Dr Bondini at a theatre near – or not so near – to you. You life will be enriched as mine is by this wonderful performance!


© Nick Ralls, August 2005