Paul Daniels, From Legend to Leg End

Posted by on Nov 24, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Paul Daniels, show tour picPaul Daniels has been a household name for as long as many of us can remember but, unlike most people in this position, he is not one for resting on his laurels. Far from just going through the motions, he is constantly updating, refining and inventing routines – and clearly still enjoys doing so. In his fourth decade of national and international stardom, his enthusiasm and respect for magic are both admirable and inspiring: this is no nostalgia tour but a state-of-the-art magic show, appreciated as much by the teenagers in the audience as by the older generations, who used to watch The Paul Daniels Magic Show on television every week for over ten years.

I saw From Legend to Leg End at The Stockport Plaza, where a few Christmases ago Paul’s son Martin gave a memorably magical rendition of Buttons in Cinderella. On Friday evening, there was some sort of incident on the M60 and the traffic on every road leading into Stockport was virtually at a standstill for several hours. Luckily for us, my party had planned to have a leisurely dinner beforehand so, although we ended up having to bolt our food, we were in our seats on time for the show. Over half the audience, however, had not had the luxury of that cushion of time and dribbled in right up to the interval. The reason I mention this is that Paul and Debbie’s handling of the situation impressed me. Where the majority of performers would probably have either ignored the empty seats or postponed raising the curtain until more had been filled, these seasoned professionals came on stage and played for time, not getting into the show proper until more people had arrived but keeping those of us who had made it thoroughly entertained while we waited.

The show is a mixture of flawlessly executed high-end magic, storytelling and jokes, with a huge amount of audience participation. It’s well paced, interspersing quick tricks and large illusions, and it’s colourful, taking the sketches of plots and filling them out into compelling pictures. Stuffing a white handkerchief into an empty box and bringing it out red, then putting it back and bringing it out shredded, for example, is clever. But produce it as evidence in a pantomime tale of ‘orrible murders and the effect is instantly many times more intriguing.

The lovely Debbie McGee is ideal as a magician’s assistant but it’s nice to see her performing a few tricks of her own now too. Of course, she and Paul have been married for decades but her name has been associated with his in magic right from the early days of the television show and, in a profession where assistants are rarely credited, this is as it should be. The fact that they are such a long-standing and devoted couple, along with Debbie being very much a presence in her own right, allows them to create the illusion of inviting the audience into their private space. The house lights were up a lot of the time and I did often feel as if we were being treated to a parlour show as Paul and Debbie’s guests.

Although there was never a moment when the entertainment level dropped, Paul wasn’t jokey throughout. He made several serious points about the nature of deception, continuing two themes he has pursued throughout his career – namely debunking con artists and those claiming to have psychic abilities – and also reminding us, in the technological era, that there is no meaning or merit in camera tricks. If what the audience is seeing on television is not what they would see if they were in front of the magician, that isn’t magic and it might as well be performed by an actor.

With their exemplary production values and relaxed style, Paul and Debbie provide an uplifting evening with a strong feel-good factor. This is billed as ‘the first farewell tour’ and I hope there will be many more.

You can find the remaining tour dates on Paul’s website.