Tag Archives: Ben Hart

The Art of Illusion

The Art of Illusion

★★★★★

Hampstead Theatre

THE ART OF ILLUSION at the Hampstead Theatre

★★★★★

 

The Art of Illusion

“This is true ensemble playing, where no one actor is the lead, but where each actor plays every part as though it were a starring role”

 

There are many illusions at work in the wonderful Art Of Illusion by Alexis Michalik, and you will enjoy watching this tale of magic tricks unfold. Waleed Akhtar’s lively translation of the French original, together with brilliant ensemble work by the actors under the direction of Tom Jackson Greaves, means the playing time of one hundred minutes flies by. It helps, too, that the production is staged in the more intimate Hampstead Theatre downstairs. It’s a space ideally suited for a play that has to be seen in close up by the audience, to succeed. The flexibility of the space allows a cast of characters from different times and places to constantly change right in front of your eyes — a sort of magic all by itself. And oh yes — let’s not forget the sounds of high stakes soccer matches that are a constant background to the action. On more than one occasion, it’s soccer that literally saves the day for our intrepid magicians in this play.

Soccer and magic tricks? What kind of a story is Michalik telling in The Art Of Illusion? We begin by thinking it’s an unlikely love story between a lover of mathematics who has come to believe in fate, and a petty thief who has stolen her bag. When December decides, on a whim, to return the stolen bag to April (yes, those really are their names) an extraordinary story unfolds. A Watchmaker is presiding over a tale that goes back several hundred years and connects seemingly unconnected people. What starts as a random encounter between two people turns out to be anything but. And as part of the magic of The Art of Illusion, this is also a story about how magic morphs into the tricks of early film making. We get to see how one Georges Méliès uses his knowledge of stage magic to produce film magic. And that’s just one intriguing tale told by this medley of extraordinary characters who begin as traveling conjurers and mutate into inventors of film. The biggest trick of all is watching how Michalik weaves his stories of 1776, 1828, 1871,1984 and 2000 together. Watching The Art Of Illusion is to marvel at the way in which the dramatist, as conjuror of time, mixes and matches all these different periods together while still moving the action forward. It’s ultimately all a gigantic act of illusion, starting with the magic tricks the actors perform to get the audience warmed up, to the way in which they transform from character to character. These character changes, often across gender and time periods, embody the same kind of effortless legerdemain in the acting, as the playwright manifests in his script.

There’s a lot, dramaturgically speaking, packed into The Art Of Illusion. The whole thing succeeds because every part of this production has been so carefully crafted, and fits together so well. Jackson Greaves has done sterling work in the direction and staging of this clever and engaging script, ably assisted by designer Simon Kenny. Matt Haskins and Yvonne Gilbert do great work with the lighting and sound, and there’s an “Illusion Consultant” (Ben Hart) on hand to assist with getting the magic tricks right. But the lion’s share of praise should go to the actors. Rina Fatania, Bettrys Jones, Martin Hyder, Norah Lopez Holden, Brian Martin and Kwaku Mills keep up a relentless pace, yet each character they portray is so clearly defined. This is true ensemble playing, where no one actor is the lead, but where each actor plays every part as though it were a starring role. The closest anyone comes to stealing a scene is probably Rina Fatania, whose portrayal of a mouthy fifteen year old video game player, is a great conclusion to the dazzling tapestry of characters in this play.

The Art Of Illusion is playing now at the Hampstead Theatre Downstairs until January 28th. Don’t miss it.

 

 

Reviewed on 3rd January 2023

by Dominica Plummer

Photography by Robert Day

 

Previously reviewed at this venue:

 

The Two Character Play | ★★★★ | July 2021
Big Big Sky | ★★★★ | August 2021
Night Mother | ★★★★ | October 2021
The Forest | ★★★ | February 2022
The Fever Syndrome | ★★★ | April 2022
The Breach | ★★★ | May 2022
The Fellowship | ★★★ | June 2022
Mary | ★★★★ | October 2022
Blackout Songs | ★★★★ | November 2022
Sons of the Prophet | ★★★★ | December 2022

 

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The Exorcist – New Stage Adaptation

Exorcist

BILL KENWRIGHT

presents

THE EXORCIST

THE CHILLING BEST-SELLING NOVEL … THE SHOCKING OSCAR-WINNING FILM … AND NOW … THE NEW
STAGE PRODUCTION …

 

INSPIRED BY TRUE EVENTS

“I’m telling you that ‘thing’ upstairs isn’t my daughter…”

Forty-five years after William Peter Blatty’s best-selling novel terrified an entire generation, The Exorcist will be unleashed onto the West End stage for the very first time in a uniquely theatrical experience directed by Sean Mathias and adapted for the stage by John Pielmeier.

The Exorcist will play a strictly limited run at the Phoenix Theatre from 20 October 2017 to 10 March 2018. Tickets will go on general sale at 4pm on Friday 11 August.

Widely considered the scariest movie of all time, the film adaptation of The Exorcist sparked unprecedented worldwide controversy when it was released in cinemas in 1973. Winner of two Academy Awards, William Friedkin’s masterpiece saw audiences petrified to the point of passing out and went on to become one of the top ten highest grossing films of all time.

“Oh please, Mother, make it stop! It’s hurting.”

When the medical profession fails to provide answers to young Regan’s strange symptoms her desperate mother Chris turns to a local priest for help. But before Father Damien can tackle what’s before him, he must overcome his own shaken beliefs, as this fight is for more than just one girl’s soul…

Sean Mathias has worked at the Royal National Theatre and many times in the West End and on Broadway, as well as extensively internationally. In 2009/2010 Sean’s production of Waiting For Godot played two seasons at the Theatre Royal Haymarket and toured the UK and internationally. In 2013 Godot played Broadway along with his production of Pinter’s No Man’s Land, the latter transferring to Wyndham’s Theatre in October 2017 starring Ian McKellen and Patrick Stewart, and won Best Revival at the Evening Standard Theatre Awards 2016.

The Exorcist is designed by Olivier Award-winning Designer Anna Fleischle (Hangmen) with lighting by Tim Mitchell (RSC/Guys and Dolls), composition and sound design by Adam Cork (London Road) and illusion design is by Ben Hart (Impossible).

CASTING TO BE ANNOUNCED


Bill Kenwright presents

THE EXORCIST

A play by John Pielmeier.
Adapted from the novel by William Peter Blatty.
Directed by Sean Mathias.

By Special Arrangement with Ben Sprecher and Stuart Snyder
In Association with Birmingham Repertory Theatre

Phoenix Theatre

20th October 2017 – 10th Macrh 2018

 

PLEASE NOTE this production contains material which may shock and offend. Recommended age guidance 18+.
Monday – Thursday 8pm

‘Friday is Fright-Night’

6pm evening and ‘Fright Night late show’ 9pm
Saturday 4pm and 8pm

CLICK HERE FOR TICKETS IF YOU DARE

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