Richard Leigh’s Magic Shows in London

Posted by on May 2, 2013 in Reviews | 0 comments

Richard Leigh, creator of London magic showsRichard Leigh is inventive, perfectionist and indefatigable. The metaphorical plate-spinning act he pulls off week after week, month after month, year after year, creating magic in many different guises in many different settings all over London, is an extraordinary feat in itself – and the magic is wonderful.

To give you an idea of what some of the shows are like, I’ve reproduced here (on the new website) my reviews from a few years ago. Details have changed over time but the overall experience hasn’t: Richard Leigh’s magic shows are reliably excellent.

For the latest info and to book tickets, go to www.falseimpressions.co.uk.

The Magic Cavern

Underneath a pub in Kensington called The Curtain’s Up is the Barons Court Theatre. At 3 o’clock on Sundays and some midweek afternoons as well, this atmospheric space becomes The Magic Cavern.

Renowned magician Richard Leigh has created a magic show that’s gripping, mystifying and great fun for all the family. Either he or his friend David Major performs the one-man show several times a week, for the entertainment of guests (as they call the audience) from all over the country and, indeed, the world.

The cavern itself manages to be both cosy and, before you meet the magician, slightly spooky. There’s definitely a magical feel to it. I wondered if the show was going to be in the spooky vein but it’s absolutely not. Once the magician is on stage, I don’t think any child would be afraid of any aspect of the show. It’s billed as being suitable for anyone over 5 years old and I’m sure that’s accurate.

The show I saw was presented by Richard Leigh and enjoyed by spectators spanning three generations and coming from at least three different countries.

You’ll see traditional sleight-of-hand, modern mentalist effects and some exciting new twists on age-old plots. There’s fire, there’s bondage, there’s a game of Chinese Whispers… everything you could possibly want from a cabaret magic show.

I won’t spoil the effects for you by telling you what they are. Suffice it to say, they are smoothly and effortlessly executed. The show is full of variety and original ideas, interspersed with gentle comedy and a lot of audience participation. It’s excellent. Don’t miss it.

Note:  Since I first attended The Magic Cavern and wrote this review, in August 2008, there have been a few changes. Instead of having an interval, the show now runs straight through for about an hour, which suits the style of the performance. However, a guest magician now does a brief slot in the middle, to give Richard five minutes’ rest and the audience a change.

Because it’s constantly evolving, if you’ve already seen the show, I think it’s worth seeing it again. I’ve been three times now and will definitely be going again.

Get there early because it’s open seating. Also, if you’re lucky, the guest magician may perform some close-up magic for you, while you’re waiting for the show to begin.

The Sideshow of Wonders

In another tiny, cosy theatre in different part of London, Richard Leigh brings to life the sideshow attractions of yesteryear. If, like me, you suspect that the carnival sideshows of old may have been somewhat sinister and disturbing, let me reassure you straight away that this show is not remotely like that. Richard Leigh’s modest charm and immense likeability shine through everything he does and watching this show was one of the most enjoyable hours I have spent in years.

The magic is phenomenal and just keeps coming. Effects large and small tumble over one another in true sideshow style, to create an overall experience of, well, wonder. This is not to say it’s chaotic – au contraire, it’s beautifully planned, paced and choreographed – but I was amazed how much is packed into one short hour.

Richard’s assistant, Michelle, who also appears in Late Night Magic (see below), is another likeable character who doesn’t take herself too seriously. I was impressed by her versatility in the wide variety of funny/bizarre/dangerous situations into which the magician thrust her.

I saw several illusions I had never seen before (which is pretty rare for me these days) and was also surprised by some tricks where I thought I knew what to expect but was confounded at the end. The finale is the crowning astonishment to an extremely entertaining show. I had seen the illusion countless times before but never been particularly struck by it until I saw Richard Leigh’s version.

If you get a chance to experience The Sideshow of Wonders, seize it with both hands. You’ll love it.

The show runs straight through for an hour at the Jermyn Street Theatre, just around the corner from Piccadilly in central London, and is suitable for anyone over 5 years of age.

Get there reasonably early because it’s open seating. Also, the lavatories are backstage and you want to make sure you’re out of there before the performance begins!

Late Night Magic

Now, this is a funny show, in both senses of the word. The title is slightly misleading – in that magic is not the most prominent feature of the show – and I would have been disappointed by this, had it not all been so much fun.

The two loons who comprise Soft Cabaret fill the theatre with laughter and gasps at their daredevilry and extremely skilful juggling. There is an element of magic in certain feats but generally it’s a variety show with loads of comedy and silliness but never a dull moment.

The real magic is, of course, done by Richard Leigh, who provides stillness and quiet amazement that is in stark contrast to the madcap antics of his fellow performers. The effects are quick and strong, as they need to be for an audience of late-night revellers, and brilliant in the way we have come to expect from this original magician.

While Late Night Magic is not for children, that’s mainly because of the timing. Where so many shows rely on bawdiness and bad language to make up for an absence of wit, this one doesn’t and it’s genuinely funny. Corny old gags are delivered with such enthusiasm that they are reinvigorated, many gags were new to me and a lot of the comedy is visual – and completely unexpected.

I recommend this show because I really enjoyed it but, if magic is your primary focus, you need to see at least one of Richard Leigh’s other shows as well. Preferably both. However, if you’re settled a few minutes before the main performance starts, a magician will come round and show you a few close-up tricks to boost the magic quota.

All round, a very jolly evening.

Note:  The show as reviewed ran until 12 December 2008. The new season of Late Night Magic opened in February 2009 and has a different format. It also has much more magic in it.

The show runs straight through for an hour at the Jermyn Street Theatre, just around the corner from Piccadilly in central London, and is suitable for anyone over, say, 16 years of age. It finishes at midnight, which doesn’t sound very late for London but I was surprised to discover that the last tube back to Arsenal, where I was staying, went at 12.20. It’s worth checking this in advance, in case you end up having to take a taxi.

Get there reasonably early because it’s open seating. Also, the lavatories are backstage and you want to make sure you’re out of there before the performance begins!