Intimate Magical Delight for All

The Magic Cavern, Barons Court Theatre
Reviewed by Jane McDowell


The Magic Cavern at Barons Court Theatre, in West London is an absolute gem of a show. A tiny pub theatre upstairs, Curtain's Up, tucked away behind Barons Court, plays host, every Sunday at 3pm, 52 weeks of the year, to this fantastic magic show.

Magic is a subject that has long been of profound interest and fascination to mankind. The immense amount of literature concerning its practice throughout the world is testament to the powerful and lasting influence it has exercised on the human race from the early ages.
Before the era of printing, the mysteries and secrets of magic were closely guarded and only revealed in manuscripts and it is only from the examination of these documents that we can gain some knowledge of the mysterious operations of the practitioners of magic and the methods they employed.

Today, The Magic Circle protects those secrets fiercely and magicians who are accepted into it are sworn to secrecy. The origin of the magic circle itself is fascinating. It can be traced back for a period of 5,000 years and was probably employed at a much earlier date. Its origin is unknown but one theory suggests that it arose from the ancient symbol of the serpent with a tail in its mouth. Legend tells that an Assyrian sorcerer sprinkled lime around the serpent and set seven little winged serpents before the god, as described in the following test

"I have completed the usurtu (magic circle), with a sprinkling of lime I have surrounded him".

Interesting then that a lime makes an early appearance in a trick in this show.

The show is introduced by the charming Ron Phillips and hosted by two close-up magicians, Richard Leigh and David Major. They command the stage and move seamlessly on and off stage, working in harmony alone and together. The intimate black cavern like space of this tiny theatre, that seats only 50 people renders itself perfectly for the purpose. The magic is both intimate and dramatic and wherever you sit in the theatre, you will see magic and illusion very close.

David Major opens the show. A young magician, only three weeks a member of The Magic Circle, he tells us endearingly, is nonetheless a master of his art. He has a slightly hesitant, but totally appealing and friendly style and he quickly establishes a good rapport with the audience, a roughly equal balance of children and adults.

Then we are introduced to Richard Leigh who starts with some deft magic involving a small glass, a silver cup and a small red ball. He does not speak at all during this, but rather mimes speech, and one wonders if he is going to speak at all. In due course he does, and he has the fine projection of an actor. Both magicians are dressed in black suits and both are slim and lithe and move with cat-like grace around the stage, handling, set, scenery and props with ease and expertise.

The magic is outstanding, enchanting and at times simply unbelievable. You witness, time and again, the seemingly impossible, from card tricks (there must be at least three in every show as decreed in a small clause in Richard's very long contract from Hammersmith and Fulham Council), disappearing balls to be replaced by aforementioned lime and then a tomato, some skillful trickery with an umbrella and a length of black and red scarves, ropes, which though they appear cut several times always revert, as if by magic, to one piece, silver ring, wooden rings and newspapers.

Music enhances the action throughout but never overwhelms or detracts. The Sorcerer's Apprentice is an apt choice, as is Saint Saens' Danse Macabre and there are the stirring tones of Rachmaninov, the haunting solo piano of Liszt's concerto no 2 and in a departure from the classical canon, music from The Cotton Club.

All the magic is astounding but there are two tricks which simply defy belief - one with words, one with numbers. Take the whole family along to witness and ponder in amazement, like we did. Richard and David astound, delight and confound with easy charm and rapport. Do not miss this show.


Jane McDowell, April 2008