Tag Archives: Jonathan Sayer



Apollo Theatre

MIND MANGLER at the Apollo Theatre


“The onstage chemistry is faultless, funny and occasionally emotional, without being mawkish”

A little over a decade ago, three students fresh out of the London Academy of Music and Dramatic Art decided to make some mischief. So, with dead end day jobs and pens in hand, they made ‘Mischief’; the theatre company that is now celebrating ten years in the West End with their inaugural “The Play That Goes Wrong”. Many offshoots have sprung up in the meantime, adopting the same formula. It won’t be alright on the night – of that you can be sure. And their most recent, “Mind Mangler: Member of the Tragic Circle”, stays true to their trademark.

But despite this element of predictability, there are quite a few surprises in store. Not to mention plenty of laughs. And the more we are drawn into the show, the more our respect grows for the odd couple who somehow manage (only just) to hold it all together on stage. Billed as a ‘two-man solo show’, it follows illusionist, magician and mentalist, The Mind Mangler (Henry Lewis), poking fun but also paying homage to the tradition of the magic show. Aided (or otherwise) by his hapless and hopeless stooge (Jonathan Sayer). Lewis and Sayer wrote the piece, along with fellow Mischief maker Henry Shields. Penn and Teller famously collaborated in the process, and the thinly disguised virtuosity of some of the tricks – even if they are apt to go wrong – certainly shines bright through the tongue-in-cheek delivery.

It takes great charisma to successfully portray a character who has no charisma. Just as it takes great talent to convincingly depict the talentless. This pair have it in spades. Lewis is imposing yet relaxed. Quick witted, he is a master at reading his audience (though evidently not their minds) and reacting with finely honed improvisatory skills. Sayer emerges from the auditorium as a planted audience member, making much of this concept throughout. This is their modus operandi. It is stretched a little thin, but the performances keep the entertainment factor nudging the high end of the scales. Not restrained by the magic circle it revolves in, Lewis and Sayer also look up to – and recall – comedy classics such as Laurel and Hardy. The onstage chemistry is faultless, funny and occasionally emotional, without being mawkish.

We never quite lose sight of the fact, however, that this is a scripted play and not a magic act. And we suspect that Sayer is not the only plant in the audience. But it never matters, as we are always rewarded with a punchline delivered with hilarious precision. The banter is delightful, and the lampooning is spontaneous and refreshing. Although we can see what’s coming, the performers suddenly twist it around, so we suddenly view it from a completely different angle. Lewis professes to be able to taste people’s names, smell their job, hear the thoughts of playing cards. We love to see him fail.

As the evening progresses, things do start to go right. Hannah Sharkey’s staging is slick and as precise as the mechanisms behind some of the illusions. But none of this lessens the comic impact, and we still leave the auditorium beaming from ear to ear. It feels personal, as though we have been part of a select few rather than one in a crowded West End theatre. That is where the true magic lies. You don’t need to be a mind reader to predict its ongoing success. We all love a bit of ‘Mischief’.


MIND MANGLER at the Apollo Theatre

Reviewed on 24th March 2024

by Jonathan Evans

Photography by Pamela Raith




Previously reviewed at this venue:

THE TIME TRAVELLER’S WIFE | ★★★ | November 2023
POTTED PANTO | ★★★★★ | December 2022
CRUISE | ★★★★★ | August 2022



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Peter Pan Goes Wrong


Theatre Royal Brighton & UK Tour

Peter Pan Goes WrongPeter Pan Goes Wrong

Theatre Royal Brighton

Reviewed – 19th November 2019



“Simon Scullion has designed a set that seems to be always on the verge of killing someone, yet manages not to”


Glorious slapstick, wonderful cheeky humour, and a completely mad ‘plot.’ Peter Pan Goes Wrong has everything you could possibly want from a hilarious evening at the theatre.

Once again I had my nine year old sidekick, Manu, with me to help with the review. He loved it, I loved it, clearly the whole audience loved it. Manu’s favourite bits were the most outrageous physical ‘mishaps’; the collapsing sets, the appearance on stage of the crew, trying to fix things with a chain saw and various other alarming tools. But the fun began even before the show did. Cast and crew moved through the audience, getting in the way, running wires, looking for lost equipment and chatting with people in their personas as amateur actors on their way to perform. Patrick Warner the narrator, who also plays the Cecco, the Italian pirate, made Manu a balloon dog and Ciaran Kellgren who plays Peter Pan came along, playing the star. ‘You know who I am,’ he informed Manu, and luckily he did, because he’d been reading the programme. ‘You’re my biggest fan’ crowed Kellgren and signed his programme. One very happy boy, even before the play officially began.

Another thing that Manu loved was the number of characters some of the cast played. Phoebe Ellabani executed some lightning changes right at the beginning, transforming from Mary Darling to Lisa the maid in seconds. Several times. Later she became both Tiger Lily and Tinkerbell. Peter Pan’s flying was incredibly skilful. He made it look shambolic, dangerous and very, very funny. I don’t want to give too much away, but when the ‘stage hands’ came on to wire up the Darling children for their flight to Neverland they didn’t exactly manage to do it right. You’ll have to go and see it if you want to know what happens! It’s hard to convey the sense of breathtaking chaos. Nothing goes right, and everything is perfectly judged.

Romayne Andrews, as John Darling wearing headphones that ‘fed him his lines,’ had some fabulous moments when he unknowingly tuned into the shipping forecast, or the ‘backstage chat,’ repeating everything verbatim. Tom Babbage’s Michael Darling/crocodile combo won the hearts of us all, when his secret passion was revealed, his charm and vulnerability turning him from a geeky kid to the audience favourite. Connor Crawford’s outrageous and exasperated Captain Hook was determined that the play was NOT a pantomime, but nothing was going to stop the audience taking up the traditional ‘oh yes it is! Oh no it isn’t!’ call.

Everyone in the cast deserves mention, as they were all superb. Katy Daghorn was a Wendy holding it together with Sarah Bernhardt aplomb, Oliver Senton bumbled and growled as Starkey, woofed his way across the stage as Nana the dog and was determined that he was the Co-Director, not merely the assistant. Georgia Bradley was a sweet Tootles, injured and stuttering but finally triumphant and Ethan Moorhouse’s Trevor the Stage Manager was the epitome of incompetent frustration, trying to fix everything as it collapsed around him. Although the collapse was probably his fault in the first place, his team of Assistant Stage Managers, Eboni Dixon, Christian James, Soroosh Lavasani and Ava Pickett ‘helped’ with startling uselessness.

Just when it seems impossible for things to fall apart even more spectacularly the finale happens. And it seems to happen to the cast, rather than be created by them. The revolving stage revolves, everything seems on the edge of total implosion and somehow the characters arrive at something approaching the expected end.

Simon Scullion has designed a set that seems to be always on the verge of killing someone, yet manages not to. The lighting and sound design add beautifully to the explosions and mishaps. And it’s all shaped into a tight, crazy farce by Adam Meggido, who expects a lot from his cast and absolutely gets it.

The whole thing is a superb romp that anyone from nine to ninety will love, acted and directed with whip smart skill. Manu and I both say ‘go and see it!’ You won’t regret it, although your ribs may be sore from laughing.


Reviewed by Katre

Photography by Alastair Muir


Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Peter Pan Goes Wrong

Theatre Royal Brighton until 24th November then UK tour continues


Previously reviewed at this venue:
This is Elvis | ★★★ | July 2018
Salad Days | ★★★ | September 2018
Rocky Horror Show | ★★★★ | December 2018
Benidorm Live! | ★★★★ | February 2019
Noughts And Crosses | ★★ | March 2019
Rotterdam | ★★★★ | April 2019
The Girl on the Train | ★★ | June 2019
Hair The Musical | ★★★ | July 2019


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