Morgan And West: A Grand Adventure | Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Comedy Festival

Morgan And West: A Grand Adventure

Gig review by Steve Bennett at the Brighton Comedy Festival

It’s commendable that Morgan and West, the self-styled time-travelling Victorian magicians, are trying to put a new twist on their genre both with their distinctive aesthetic and – with this latest show – a bid to provide entertainment beyond simply presenting one trick after the next.

A Grand Adventure offers a tall tale of how how their Book Of Lies, containing all their conjuring secrets, was stolen during a lecture about the art of misdirection they gave to the esteemed Royal Academy. Gadzooks! Now they must follow clues across Europe and Asia to track it down. Waistcoated and cravatted, the pair’s quest takes in the trans-Siberian railway, bustling Chinese harbours and a hot-air balloon trip to Venice. It’s two parts Jules Verne to one part Arthur Conan Doyle.

Stylistically, they can’t be faulted, evoking the right atmosphere on a relatively tight budget. Yet their mix of magic, theatre and comedy also comes at a cost to each element. There’s too much plot between tricks, and while there is a smattering of funny lines, they are clearly mindful of not destroying their carefully-built ambiance with too many mood-shattering jokes.

The illusions are nicely underplayed, from an entertaining bit of carrot-related sleight of hand at that ‘lecture’, through a slick bit of ‘mind-reading’ to a bigger escapology set piece as the story reaches a conclusion that’s both a cop-out and delightfully inventive. For the most part, the tricks are routine examples from the magicians’ canon but slickly executed, while ’volunteers’ plucked from the family audience in this afternoon slot are deployed nicely, subtly flattered whenever they are on stage.

However if they are to pursue the more theatrical storytelling route – which strikes me as an excellent way of giving themselves a point of difference –  (Rhys) Morgan and (Robert) West ought to pay more heed to narrative and characterisation. They certainly don’t play up their personality differences quite enough, which could give them a stronger dynamic.

Nevertheless, there are some engaging theatrical flourishes – the brief display of puppetry is especially memorable and more than a bit disturbing – and it’s impossible not to be charmed by the style and elegance that pervades this atmospheric show.

Review date: 20 Oct 2014
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Brighton Dome

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