Plenty of gore but it’s part of the magic

WHEN Mischief, the team behind The Play That Goes Wrong, met legendary American magicians Penn & Teller there could be only one outcome…Magic Goes Wrong.

Already a West End hit, the show follows a hapless gang of magicians as they stage an evening of grand illusion to raise cash for charity. As the magic turns to mayhem, accidents spiral out of control and so does their fundraising target.

CUTTING EDGE COMEDY– West End hit Magic Goes Wrong, created by Mischief and Penn & Teller, comes to the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday. Pamela Raith Photography

Expect nailbiting trickery and plenty of gore this week in Woking, but don’t be too worried. Despite their reputation for hair-raising magic, co-creators Penn & Teller always play it safe.

“We think that gore is essentially funny,” says Teller – the single monicker is actually his legal name.

“It’s really hard to pull off serious gore in the theatre because people tend to want to laugh. They know that it’s fake, but they see that it looks real. And that’s very much like a magic trick.”

Despite Mischief and Penn & Teller building their careers on making it look like everything is going horrifically wrong, they disdain the “edgy” magicians who put themselves in physical danger – even lampooning them in the show with the character of The Blade, who puts his limbs on the line for art’s sake.

WHAT COULD GO WRONG? A contortionist folds herself into a perspex box with potentially disasterous (and gruesome) results

“While we’re rehearsing we might get a minor cut or bruise,” Teller says. “But we don’t allow the possibility of something going seriously wrong. If we did, we wouldn’t have been working successfully for 46 years.”

“If you want to see someone actually get hurt, go watch NASCAR [a ferocious high- speed car race with frequent crashes],” says Penn Jillette. “If you want your art to be dangerous, stay away from me.”

The paradox of their work, and of Magic Goes Wrong, is that they all have to be incredibly safe precisely to make it look so dangerous, which can be a laborious process.

“You get an idea, which is usually quite grand, then you find that it’s impossible, and you revise it over and over until it works,” explains Teller.

“There’s a trick in the show where one of the cast members gets accidentally sawed in half by a buzzsaw. That was more than a year of work. Part of the trick involves blood, but if you just show the blood on stage it looks boring, it has no impact at all.

“So a big part of the buzzsaw trick for us was developing it in such a way that when the blood came, it would be sprayed up against a huge backdrop where you could truly enjoy the bright red colour…”

Magic Goes Wrong will be at the New Victoria Theatre from Tuesday (2 November) until Saturday 6 November.

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