Conversations with Penn & Teller (indigO2, London)

Originally published on my LiveJournal blog 10th December 2011.

After a long absence from the UK, accomplished magicians Penn & Teller have started making welcome returns to these shores, and the three nights of ‘Conversations’ last week in the O2’s baby venue followed on from their (admittedly hit and miss) TV talent spotting show ‘Fool Us’ and their successful show at the Hammersmith Apollo last year.

On the first night which we attended Mr Jillette and Mr Teller were in conversation with their good friend Jonathan Ross, while performing a small selection of their greatest tricks (Teller’s needle and thread illusion, the hand stab, the cups and balls, the polyester illusion, and a new piece involving an audience member being tricked by a couple of metal hoops).  Although we have heard the story before of the Latin teacher and the teenage street juggler deciding to work together – now in their thirty-seventh year as performers, and the longest running in terms of stage time in the USA – it is always fun to hear the background of an artist and here the duo didn’t disappoint.

A lengthy Q&A at the end allowed some discussion of the topics covered in Showtime’s long-running series ‘Bulls**t” (only shown briefly here in the UK. on the DMAX channel I believe) in which the duo debunk many areas of knowledge such as religion, politics, mediums, and much more.  It was clear from PJ’s answer to a question about mediums how much he resents their exploitation of the grieving bereaved (and also how much he loves and respects his late parents, who passed around ten years ago).  Also his love for his family, EZ and children Mox and Z who came to him late in life.  Mr Teller is rather less forthcoming about his personal views, but he was fascinating on the subject of silent performing and the work of Derren Brown and mesmerics.

All this makes me want to reach for the handful of VHS recordings I have of their 1990s series ‘The Unpleasant World of Penn & Teller’ or to watch their flawed but funny film ‘Penn & Teller Get Killed’ from 1989.

Come back soon guys.

(Incidentally the indigO2 is a weird, weird venue.  Something like a nightclub and although it was OK for this show, I would hate to watch something more conventional here.  Our last experience of this venue was for Bryn Terfel and it was just wrong on every level to see an opera star there).