It’s been dubbed the most dangerous show the West End has ever seen – and now it’s heading to Wearside.
Today it’s been announced that magic show Impossible will cast a spell over Sunderland Empire in February as part of its first ever tour.
The show promises to pull all manner of magic out of the hat, from death-defying escapology and grand stage illusions to state-of-the-art technological magic and up close and personal sleight of hand.
The Empire is one of only a handful of theatres capable of hosting the large-scale spectacular. And director Lloyd Wood says he’s looking forward to baffling Wearside.
“What we’re doing is a celebration of magic, it’s such an interesting time for live magic,” he explained.
“There’s been a huge shift from TV magic to stage magic recently, and we’re acknowledging that, while exploring the origins of magic.
“We live in a world of iPads, a world where we send people to Mars, yet we still believe in magic.
“The audience get to explore the possibilities of their imagination. It’s about how we create these impossibilities in our minds in order to be awe-struck.”
He added: “You can’t edit live magic like you can TV, it’s not about camera angles. There’s something very exposing about theatre magic, that adds a heightened sense of thrill.”
The show ran over the summer in London’s Noël Coward Theatre and proved so popular the show’s producers decided to bring it on the road.
Lloyd says tour audiences can look forward to seeing world-class magicians, who will be announced closer to the time, on their doorstep.
He said: “The venues on the tour are the No 1 houses in the country. They are all actually bigger than London, which has given us the opportunity to play with the visual spectacle. It’s all about the audience seeing what they are meant to see, and not seeing what they are not meant to see.”
Speaking about the show’s success, he said:
“It was the first time a magic show had been done in the West End for years, that a coven of magicians had worked together.
“It felt oddly old-fashioned as an idea, but it was met with a rapturous response.
“It brings back our childish infantalised notions of buying into the world of magic. It’s all about the audience and the possibility of understanding the deception. I speak to the audience after the show and they don’t actually want to know how it’s done.
“They revel in that place where they feel they can escape, in a way that musical theatre helps us to escape.”
Lloyd says the unpredictable nature of magic and its reliance on audience reaction to work throws up interesting challenges as a director.
“When directing a play you have a very strong sense of how something goes down, where the drama exists, where the comedy exists,” he explains.
“But with magic the show is dependent upon how the audience connects with you.
“There’s so many unexpected beats, it’s all about timing and delivery. That trinity of light, sound and music has to land with the resolution of the trick.”
He added: “It has beautiful lyrical moments, that are Charlie Chaplin-esque, which appeals to my theatrical sensibilities, but then you have someone escape from a burning rope while hanging upside down, which makes your heart beat fast.
“There’s a huge variety and I enjoy that range of personality, magic and visual spectacle.”
Though magic is undergoing a resurgence in popularity, thanks to the likes of Derren Brown, David Blaine and Dynamo, it’s never really gone away.
“The fundamental aspects of magic have survived thousands of years,” says Lloyd. “We’re bringing magic back from the 2D of TV, to 3D reality, which is how it used to be performed, it gives a greater level of scrutiny for the audience.”
So why does magic have the ability to captivate and mystify an audience like no other?
“Throughout the ages we’ve had Merlin, Gandalf, the Sword in the Stone, Disney’s Fantasia - we have such a thirst for the supernatural,” explained Lloyd.
“Magic is one of the oldest art forms that’s survived the test of time, it taps into our childish ideas of awe.
“As a baby we pick up two toys and once we understand the value of one, we disregard it to try and understand the next one.
“We always want what we don’t know and understand, it appeals to us.
“It allows the suspension of our disbelief and that is a form of escape. That sense of wonder is why it’s survived.”
•Impossible is at Sunderland Empire from February 23 to 27. Tickets go on sale at 10am on Friday, November 6 from Tel. 0844 871 3022 or www.ATGtickets.com/Sunderland.