The geekdaughter has recently developed an interest in magic. She’s spent some of her pocket money on a magic set, and enjoys watching YouTube videos of magic tricks and illusions. A particular favourite is those videos which reveal how particular illusions are performed – the “masked magician” in action. So when I found out that Impossible, a large-scale magic show, was touring the UK following a successful run in the West End, and coming to our local theatre, I treated us to tickets.
Last weekend we all headed off to the Regent Theatre in Stoke-on-Trent for the show. I had booked my favourite seats, front row of the circle, but on arrival at the theatre one of the ushers informed us that as there were a lot of unsold seats for the show we could sit down in the stalls if we wished. We declined, but the people in front of us accepted and were allocated new seats. I know matinee performances are not usually as busy as evening performances, but it was a real shame to see the theatre so empty. It was less than half full.
However, once the show began, we forgot all of that. The show stars 6 different magicians, all with different areas of expertise. Over the course of about 2 hours we were treated to a balanced mix of “big” escapes and daredevil stunts alongside mind reading and close-up magic. There was even a break-dancing magician. The bigger illusions filled the whole stage, but the close-up work was supported by large television screens on the stage meaning we could see all the action, big or small. The only part that the kids were unsure of was the escape where daredevil Jonathan Goodwin was wrapped in a straightjacket, hung upside down over the stage and then set on fire, with a bed of nails beneath him. The geekson hid for this part, but the geekdaughter, who has had a bit of a problem with fire in the past, was fine with it.
I grew up watching magic shows on television, and I share the geekdaughter’s fascination with watching the “how is it done” videos. But there is something different about seeing it live. The speed that things happened for example – you get a far better sense of that with a live show than on television. There were loads of opportunities for the audience to get involved, with pretty much every act requiring a volunteer from the audience. These were all selected from the stalls, of course, so we were safe, but there was one great trick in which the entire audience participated. At the start of the show every seat had a special envelope on it:
At the relevant part in the show we were instructed to open the envelope, to reveal 4 pictures. Following the instructions we tore these pictures in half, selected one half to put in a pocket, and then worked through the other pieces, throwing more and more away until we were left with just one piece. And of course, it was the other half of the picture we had in our pockets. The geekdaughter’s face when she realised this was a picture, I can tell you!
We all thoroughly enjoyed Impossible. The geekdaughter tells me it’s the best show she’s ever seen in the theatre (apparently it even beats Wicked for her!), and the geekson cried when the lights came up at the end, which is a good indication of him enjoying something! I think the show gives a really good overview of all the main magic genres, and as such is a great introduction to live magic for kids of all ages. I hadn’t realised how different “live magic” would feel to television magic, and I think if more people realised that the theatre would have been much more full. The promotional information for the show recommends it for ages 6 and up, which is probably fair given the intensity of some of the illusions/stunts. However the geekson is quite a nervous five year old and he loved the whole show with the exception of the man being on fire, so if you have younger kids who are interested in magic I think it would be fine for them as long as you look after them for that part.
Impossible is now playing at the Palace Theatre in Manchester, and more tour dates are promised “shortly” so keep an eye on the Impossible website for more shows. If it comes anywhere near us again I am sure the kids will beg to see it again.