Penn & Teller, Hammersmith Apollo, London
Thursday 22 July 2010
"Lie, cheat, swindle, rip off, that's what we do!" Comedy-magic pairing Penn & Teller may offer illusions, but they are not under any about what they do.
The Las Vegas-residing showmen, last in the UK in 1994, want their audience to leave asking why they do what they do, rather than how. This is unlikely to happen after you have seen the dainty, Chaplin-esque, Teller cut the shadow of a flower causing the flower itself to cede petals. Nor is it the first thing to come to mind when you see the ursine (or "Orsine", if you used Orson Welles as a comparative measure of stature and vocal depth) Teller avoid injury through over-zealous use of a nail gun.
The "why" is easy to answer; it's because both performer and punter enjoy it. Their show may not have the bludgeoning awe of a Derren Brown show, but in its stead runs a warmth generated by Penn's quips and Teller's slight, silent, clowning. "Give me a moment to make your hair look really bitchin'" says Teller, settling a female member of the audience who has volunteered to be levitated. And Teller bemuses another female volunteer (women, it seems, being deemed the fairer sex for illusory purposes) by turning water into coinage with a nonchalant and workmanlike aplomb.
The duo could, however, have indulged themselves in a big finish rather than a cosy fireside chat about fire-eating, which was one of a few damp squibs of the evening. Fire was duly eaten, but more show-stopping routines had preceded this, including a not-to-be-spoiled one where Teller made an unexpected "appearing act".
True magic inside the Hammersmith Apollo would, of course, have seen the queues for the toilet and the bar shorten forever, but no one needed to see miracles tonight to believe that they had been entertained. The only "why" question that was in my mind as I left was: "Why have they been away so long?"
Game of Thrones
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 100,000 back our campaign
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up