Tag Archives: Chris Cox









“it’s encouraging that the producers are bringing traditional variety and cabaret to the central West End”


Magic, comedy, circus and cabaret combine for a new version of a show that wowed audiences at London’s Palace Theatre last year.

“Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret” is a more intimate rendering of “Wonderville: Magic & Illusion” with the advantage of being staged in its own venue (formerly Planet Hollywood) in the Haymarket. While currently taking bookings until the end of October producers are hoping the residency will be more permanent.

The magic begins the moment you enter the venue as designer Justin Williams has created not just a striking environment but a beautiful setting where the café, bar and theatre reflect the cabaret show itself.

On normal nights each show features acts from a roster which currently includes Chastity Belt, Desmond O’Connor, Mysti Vine (the three take their turn as hosts), Billy Kidd, Matricks, Dee Riley, Marc Oberon, Aurora Starr, Abi Collins, Tara Talland, Snookie Mono and Pi the Mime. On opening night we were treated to 10 acts and it was a particular joy to see the incomparable and legendary Fay Presto touring the tables beforehand and during the breaks for some close-up magic.

The cabaret table layout means there is a lot of opportunity for engagement between the performers and audience and while this can be achieved in a typical theatre auditorium, there is no denying that the smaller purpose-built “Wonderville” venue lends itself to close-up magic, an in-your-face sauciness and immersive entertainment.

The layout also means that acts wanting to engage with audience members or even walk around the floor often have to squeeze past them somewhat unceremoniously.

It’s unfortunate that a side balcony, which is on the same side as the small stage, means people sitting towards the back of it cannot see much of the entertainment and several of us there on press night ended up standing.

The atmosphere is one of burlesque, Vaudeville, spectacle and charm with each act given quite a short opportunity to show off their talents, though of course this is much in the tradition of classic variety shows.

While it is in the very capable hands of creative director Laura Corcoran and magic consultant Chris Cox there are many moments in the show which make it feel as though it’s been cobbled together at the last moment, with some of the performers seeming strangely ill at ease.

If the idea of the venue is to experience “the magic of magic” it seems odd not to have that as a running theme to give some cohesiveness to the evening. While the experienced cabaret hosts were enormous fun the choice of songs (after a promising opening of “A Kind of Magic”) was bizarre, however well performed – a singalong “Jungle Book” medley, “Life on Mars” and a Diamond medley seem unrelated to anything else.

There is also an overlap between some of the acts – charismatic Billy Kidd’s card tricks are terrific but largely repeated by Marc Oberon, while Amazi’s opening hoop spinning is pretty much done again by Abi Collins, though the latter’s act as man-eating lush Ritzi Crackers is one of the evening’s highlights.

Snookie Mono brings delightfully unexpected campness to sword-swallowing while Tara Talland’s hair-hanging draws sharp intakes of breath, though expecting an entire table to move out of the way in order for her to perform is clumsy.

The Matricks perform the most ambitious of the routines with Alexander Jesson smoothly presenting appearing girls, levitation and a skewered crate to thrilling effect.

Des O’Connor provides energy and humour as one of the hosts but it is Chastity Belt who commands the most attention, belting out numbers as though the venue was ten times the size, quickly having rapport with the audience and demonstrating her seasoned professionalism with sparkle.

While “Wonderville: Magic & Cabaret” might more naturally have a home in, say, The Vaults at Waterloo, it’s encouraging that the producers are bringing traditional variety and cabaret to the central West End. Even if the show needs a bit of tidying up one suspects something will be pulled out of the hat as the season progresses.


Reviewed on 16th August 2022

by David Guest



Recent five star show reviews:

Flat and Curves | ★★★★★ | Toulouse Lautrec | July 2022
Hungry | ★★★★★ | Soho Theatre | July 2022
Fashion Freak Show | ★★★★★ | Roundhouse | July 2022
The Lion, The Witch & The Wardrobe | ★★★★★ | Gillian Lynne Theatre | July 2022
Bugsy Malone | ★★★★★ | Birmingham Repertory Theatre | July 2022
Monster | ★★★★★ | Park Theatre | August 2022
Sap | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022
The Anniversary | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022
My Son’s A Queer | ★★★★★ | Edinburgh Festival Fringe | August 2022





Click here to read all our latest reviews



King’s Head Theatre



King’s Head Theatre

Reviewed – 20th July



“A brave and charismatic performance”


Whilst comedy has always had a hand in social commentary, the last few years have brought a new strain of honesty to the mix; shows such as Richard Gadd’s ‘Monkey See, Monkey Do’, Adam Lazarus’ ‘Daughter’ and Jessie Cave’s ‘Sunrise’ have relied more directly on personal experiences, creating a much riskier but ultimately richer and more engaging performance. ‘Oddball’ endeavours to do the same, talking at length about a subject that polite conversation dictates we circumnavigate.

Oddball has got herself a date. And this one is set to be a whole lot better than the endless duds who came before. Only thing is, it’s in a restaurant, the menu’s calorie content unknown. Which, Oddball assures us, is barely a thing. OK, it’s a bit of a thing. Actually, it’s kind of a major problem: Oddball was previously diagnosed with an eating disorder, and whilst the generally accepted narrative is that someone is diagnosed, treated and hey presto they’re cured, it’s rarely that simple.

‘Oddball’ tells a story of ongoing struggle with great humour and zeal. With director Micha Mirto opting for no props and a basic costume (shorts and a tank top), Francesca Maria Forristal (writer and performer) has nowhere to hide. She takes on the whole production, striding resolutely across the entire stage, miming any necessary accessories, including, somehow, changes in camera angles, with only a few sound effects (Jordan Clarke) to aid in her imagined creations. She is fearless in her undertaking, talking directly with the audience throughout, often bursting in to song. What’s most commendable is her effort to find the comedy in what is, no doubt, a very common and serious problem.

There’s a slight immaturity to the delivery – Forristal seems unsure whether the audience will in fact enjoy the combination of vaudeville and pathos, and recognise that there’s a difference between laughing with and laughing at affliction. But we do. It’s perhaps the only way to tell a story like this, spliced generously with laughter. The plot could also be a little pacier, maybe making room for a meatier story line, and even a second half.

A brave and charismatic performance, Forristal is clearly one to watch. Whilst she may have a way to go it’s exciting to see the beginning of what will no doubt be a long and successful venture in comedy.


Reviewed by Miriam Sallon

Photography by Chris Cox


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King’s Head Theatre as part of Playmill New Writing Festival. Then at Upstairs at the Gatehouse from 20th – 24th August


Last ten shows reviewed at this venue:
Carmen | ★★★★ | February 2019
Timpson: The Musical | ★★★ | February 2019
The Crown Dual | ★★★★ | March 2019
Undetectable | ★★★★ | March 2019
Awkward Conversations With Animals … | ★★★★ | April 2019
HMS Pinafore | ★★★★ | April 2019
Unsung | ★★★½ | April 2019
Coral Browne: This F***Ing Lady! | ★★ | May 2019
This Island’s Mine | ★★★★★ | May 2019
Vulvarine | ★★★★★ | June 2019


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