Penn & Teller get intimate
HMV Apollo, London

14th - 17th July 2010

Reviewed by James Pritchard

Magic greats Penn & Teller made it back to the UK at last, following a 16-year absence, during which time they have been performing to packed audiences in Las Vegas. I have always been a big fan of their television shows, and so the chance to see them live felt long overdue.

The show was awesome. Illusions, intimate effects, hilarious comedy and poignant monologues (courtesy of Penn of course), were all expertly performed. There was no excess, every trick, word and gesture was honed to perfection, testament to their vast experience.

Tellerís handling of Miserís Dream was poetry in motion. It was amazing and beautiful to watch as he produced a mass of coins, followed by 100 goldfish, from a water-filled fish tank.

His needle swallowing routine was the best I've ever seen. It's a trick I regularly perform at cabaret clubs, but his handling was so convincing I'm not sure how he did it.

Penn's razor dialogue and formidable presence ensured that the night moved apace and with contagious energy. For the finale, there was no grand illusion, instead, they dimmed the lights and Penn shared his thoughts on the meaning and philosophy of magic. The question, he said, is not how they do magic, but why. It was an unusual and brave note to finish on, but it created a powerful intimacy with the audience and won the duo the standing ovation they deserved.

A routine in which they enacted a scene as two strangers mysteriously handcuffed together felt underdeveloped. It was more of a short theatre sketch than a magic trick, and I liked the idea and the change of tempo, but I would have liked to see them expand on it further.

But it was a small niggle in an otherwise immaculate show. I hope they keep to their promise of not waiting another 16 years until their next visit.

© James Pritchard, July 2010