They’re back in the UK. Penn – the big, loud one who has lost both his bulk and mop of frizzy long hair in recent years – and Teller, the little, mute one, are celebrating forty years together as a magic duo this year with a show chock-full of old favourites and new tricks.
With the usual formula of audience participation, manipulation, and a healthy helping of lying, stealing and cheating, the Vegas-based illusionists bring a bit of fairy dust and sparkle to a very hot Hammersmith night.
Teller’s sweet pantomime ‘Shadows’ remains strangely beautiful, and the coin and fish trick remains impressive even when you click how it’s done. ‘Cell Fish’ is clever but based very much on misdirection and willing stagehands; while a barrel in which the 6ft 7in Penn has crushed himself makes everyone want to stretch their legs.
A new trick which seems to depend on advanced maths brings the whole audience into a ‘Find Love’ card game, while Teller displays a skilfull sleight of hand with a set of animal traps, before accidentally toppling their faithful rabbit into an industrial shredder.
An enjoyable night from true professionals who operate with the slickness of a corporate machine. Penn seems to have mellowed with marriage, children and a move away from his beloved Slammer with the pleasure jacuzzi he developed with former partner Debbie Harry, although his abrasive stage persona could still peel the paint off walls.
It’s the simplest of tricks which still fox, though: a cup which regenerates coloured balls, an egg which appears and disappears from a bag. Basic magic without the trappings of show.