Words by Suzy Romer
From the moment you enter the room to the beautiful, haunting sound of Joplin’s “The Entertainer” and set eyes on the sumptuous backdrop of rich red curtains, you enter a different world. Nick Mohammed, in the guise of Mr Swallow and Harry Houdini, is present right from the start, with a mischievous grin which never fails unless he is protesting about the death defying nature of his performance requirements. He does this with a comic expertise which has the audience in fits of laughter.
He is joined by not one but two lovely assistants, David Elms and Kieran Hodgson who are not only essential to the magic tricks and comic songs, but also provide other characters and drama. David Elms impressed Punchline last year with his performance in Adam Riches’ Coach Coach, not to mention his stand-up, but this year he has demonstrated a versatility which is stunning. Kieran Hodgson’s facial expressions and comic flare remind me of a very young David Tennant which has to be a great sign.
The sheer variety of skills displayed by the tightly knit team is awe-inspiring, but I didn’t have time to really appreciate it during the performance because I was too busy smiling and laughing with the total delight of a child. The show manages to take the audience back to a time of comedy and variety more familiar to our grandparents or great-grandparents and it is utterly thrilling. There is nothing vintage or nostalgic in this performance however; there are asides which are bang up to date and there is a guarantee of quality in the total commitment to the contents which blend together various fascinating elements of Houdini’s – and Mr Swallow’s – character.
In the last few years, Tom Binns has performed alchemy with the combination of clairvoyancy and comedy. Now Nick Mohammed has done it with escapology. Magic and comedy seem like a natural combination, devoid of the pretension and posturing that so many people find off-putting in other magicians. There is nothing to fault here, just let yourself enjoy the spectacle, and wonder whether Nick Mohammed will be still here to perform another magnificent show tomorrow…
Catch Mr Swallow – Houdini at 7pm at the Pleasance Courtyard until 29 August