Penn and Teller
HMV Apollo, London
Wednesday 14th July 2010
Reviewed by Merlin Dunlop
This was a rare opportunity to see Penn and Teller in the UK. I had heard before the show that they wouldn't be doing their bullet catch because of UK health and safety regulations, but I was excited to be seeing world class American magic in London.
There was a huge number of reasonably well-known magicians pottering about in the street around the Apollo before the show. The venue is one of those strange places which was once very grand but is starting to show its age. That being said, the seats were OK, and the sound good, though the camera which was enlarging the action onto two large screens seemed to cut out at times – it was not clear if this was operator error or a technical fault.
Anyway, the show started more or less on time and with typical energy, Penn launched straight into the action, with Teller remaining silent as always. After a noisy start, involving Teller arriving on stage with his head encased in concrete, Teller did his fish tank/money routine which was a delight and one of the highlights of the show for me. They followed with quick pieces of visual theatre interspersed with more involved routines including a very clever underwater card through glass. A hilarious cut and restored routine was done with a child from the audience and quasi-religious patter.
After the traditional interval, they did a book test with joke books, a chair suspension which seemed to go slightly wrong in the sense that the audience member who participated seemed to be unable to follow instructions and she was only truly suspended for a millisecond – something perhaps only a magician would notice.
After some more theatrical pieces and a great routine with an industrial nail gun, the final piece was a demonstration of fire eating which I think is one of their signatures; at least I'm sure I've seen it on the Best of Magic or something in the 80s. As a closer to such a massive show, however, it felt to me like a slight let-down. What I mean to say is that the individual routines were on the whole so entertaining and polished, I was expecting the overall show structure to have had a bigger 'bang' at the end. I suspect that the removal of the bullet catch may have had something to do with that...
All in all, though, it was a very enjoyable show and a good chance to see some clever magic with very entertaining presentation, not something always easy to come by in today's world of YouTube wannabes.
© Merlin Dunlop, July 2010