After a successful post-lockdown run at the Palace Theatre, Wonderville has moved to a newly refurbished, bespoke, permanent venue at 57-60 Haymarket, near Piccadilly Circus. Small but perfectly formed for this type of show, it is set out in cabaret style with tables on two levels, a bar and café. A little stage with plush red curtains and pictures of magicians from past decades complete the look.
The cabaret, circus and magic acts are drawn each day from a roster of performers. On this night our hosts were Des O’Connor, who is apparently the last survivor of a long line of Des O’Connors, and sultry Chastity Belt. Throughout the evening they intermingled and interacted with the audience, introduced the performers and skilfully kept up the energy levels in the room with a stream of patter. Chastity Belt has a good voice and belted out an eclectic selection of songs. Des also did a random audience group singalong – a strange choice from a Disney cartoon, but fun. The perambulatory nature of the hosts meant that sometimes tables had an excellent view and sometimes it was impossible to see what was going on, so that was a bit of a double-edged sword.
Speaking of swords, one of the circus acts of note was sword swallower Snookie Mono. There was nodialogue but he still managed to engage the audience with his slightly camp demeanour and cheeky winks. Hula hoop expert Amazi and acrobat Tara Talland provided the other circus acts, Talland doing her bit whilst hanging from the ceiling by her hair. Occupants of one of the tables had to move and stand to the side for this, which was a bit chaotic but it added to the atmosphere. Of course, the people on that table may have felt differently.
Magic on the night was provided by Billy Kidd and Marc Oberon with various sleight of hand, card and ‘mind reading’ tricks, and also Matricks, an act with levitation, and people appearing and disappearing in boxes. None of the magic acts contained anything particularly new or ground breaking, but they were still enjoyable. Even knowing how a trick is done, it is entertaining to watch someone perform it well. These acts were at their best when some kind of audience participation was involved. Oberon in particular seemed to lose something at the end of his stint when there was no audience input. Unfortunately, the seats at the side could see the various props being prepared before they were ‘magically’ revealed, and at other times had their view blocked by the stage curtains. I think there was also a close-up magician doing the rounds, but they did not get to my table, so it may be a bit pot luck as to whether you see them.
The clown act on the night, Ritzy Crackers, was the best of the bunch. Her drunken cavorting and climbing on seats, bannisters and a helper from the audience was very cleverly done. She seemed to pick her ‘assistant’ based on his apparent resemblance to Tom Daley, so be prepared if you fall into that category.
All of the separate acts were fairly short, so if there was something you weren’t a particular fan of you knew there would be a change very soon. The whole thing was carefully choreographed to appear anarchic and haphazard but actually ran smoothly, thanks in part to the hard working, helpful and cheerful staff who quietly and efficiently re-filled drinks, collected empties and answered questions without interfering with the performances. This was a professional and enjoyable evening.
Creative Director: Laura Corcoran
Magic Consultant: Chris Cox
Venue Design by: Justin Williams
Produced by: Carter Dixon Mc-Gill Productions and Piers Cottee-Jones Entertainment
Wonderville plays at Wonderville until 30 October. Further information and bookings can be found here.